NEW ORLEANS — Medical experts say you should contact your doctor right away if you have COVID-19 symptoms and you've possibly been exposed to the virus, but sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between having the new strain of the coronavirus, the flu or just allergies.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure.
Worldwide illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including severe pneumonia that can result in hospitalization or death.
Older people and people with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease or cancer seem to be at greater risk of serious illness.
People with recent travel to China, or have come in contact with someone who has recent travel and is ill, have a greater risk of becoming ill.
Differences with Flu, Allergies
Flu symptoms include fever over 100.4 F (38 C), dry cough, chills and sweats, congestion, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue and weakness.
Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system — your nose, throat and lungs. Influenza is commonly called the flu, but it's not the same as stomach "flu" viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting.
For most people, influenza resolves on its own. But sometimes, influenza and its complications can be deadly.
Allergy symptoms include sneezing, itchy nose, itchy eyes, itchy roof of the mouth, runny/stuffy nose and watery, red or swollen eyes.
If you tend to get "colds" that develop suddenly and occur at the same time every year, it's possible that you actually have seasonal allergies. Although colds and seasonal allergies may share some of the same symptoms, they are very different diseases.
Common colds are caused by viruses, while seasonal allergies are immune system responses triggered by exposure to allergens, such as seasonal tree or grass pollens.
Treatment of a common cold may include rest, pain relievers and over-the-counter cold remedies, such as decongestants. A cold usually lasts three to 10 days, although some may last as long as two or three weeks.
Treatment of seasonal allergies may include over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays and decongestants, and avoidance of exposure to allergens where possible. Seasonal allergies may last several weeks.
What to do if you are sick:
If you recently traveled to an area affected by COVID-19 transmission, and you feel sick, stay home and call your doctor immediately. Do not go to the doctor without calling first.
If you have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, call your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, call the Louisiana Department of Health hotline at 1-855-523-2652.
If you are severely ill and you think you need to go to the hospital, call 9-1-1 or go to an emergency room.
How to Prevent the Spread
The virus is thought to spread between people in close contact (within 6 feet) and through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Wash hands with soap and water often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Especially wash hands after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Stay home if you feel sick to prevent the spread of germs.
- Cover your cough with your elbow to prevent the spread of germs.
Treatments for COVID-19
There are no medications specifically approved for COVID-19. People with coronavirus should be treated with supportive care to help relieve symptoms.
Some severe cases require going to the hospital, particularly in the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions.
KHOU reporter Doug Delony contributed to this report.