What's the Difference? Allergies, Cold, Flu, Coronavirus

UNC Health Talk and Dana Neutze, MD, PhD, associate medical director of the UNC Family Medicine Center, help explain the different symptoms of allergies, cold, flu and coronavirus.

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Symptoms and Next Steps COVID-19

What Should I do if I have Symptoms Similar to Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms including fever, cough or shortness of breath and have traveled recently should:

  • Contact your primary care provider directly to set up a virtual visit and guidance. Learn more here.
  • Schedule a visit at Urgent Care Fletcher which has been designated as a respiratory diagnostic clinic.
  • If you have trouble breathing or are experiencing a medical emergency, GO directly to the closest emergency department or CALL 9-1-1 and inform the dispatcher you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

For general questions, call the North Carolina Coronavirus Hotline at 1-866-462-3821. All residents are encouraged to continue to follow the precautions offered by the CDC to protect themselves and others from the spread of all respiratory illness, including flu and COVID-19.

Additionally, you should:

  • Stay home from work, school, and away from other public places. If you must go out, avoid using any kind of ride-sharing, taxis, or public transportation.
  • People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care.
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid sharing household items like towels, dishes, utensils, etc.
  • Clean all high-touch surfaces every day like counter tops, handles, etc every day.

If you have shortness of breath or a cough that is not related to seasonal allergies (read more about allergy symptoms), you can also view the coronavirus symptom checker from the CDC that will lead you through some questions to determine if you need medical follow-up.

UNC Health also offers virtual urgent care through its UNC Urgent Care 24/7 virtual consultation service for non-emergency medical issues. Go to

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Treatment

  • Treatment for mild cases is to stay home and treat symptoms. About 80% of patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate illness, and can be managed at home.
  • If you test positive with COVID-19, it is important to stay home and to slow the spread, as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are the most at risk.

What Parents and Families Need to Know

Find out what experts are recommending for parents to help keep your family healthy, as well as what to do if your child has symptoms similar to coronavirus (COVID-19).

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Older Adults and High Risk Patients

Older adults and patients with underlying medical conditions are at greater risk from coronavirus (COVID-10) and need to take extra precautions.

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