Is It Allergies, Seasonal Flu Or COVID-19?

Paranoia can easily kick in as the COVID-19 virus overtakes all spheres of our lives. But, you needn’t let every sniffle and cough cause unnecessary panic. As winter approaches, bringing along with it seasonal allergies, colds and flu, you should make an effort to discern the difference between the symptoms of these easily treatable conditions and COVID-19. To help you out, we’ve compiled a breakdown of the common symptoms and treatments for each.



Peak allergy season in Pretoria is between late August to mid-April. However, if you suffer from perennial allergies, you may experience common symptoms all year round. As pollen levels rise, your nasal passages become inflamed, causing the typical facial tenderness; dark circles beneath your eyes; a runny, itchy nose and watery eyes associated with hay fever allergies. Lesser known symptoms caused by allergies include:

  • Fatigue (not extreme)
  • Sinusitis headaches
  • Post nasal drip
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Seasonal depression
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbance

Hay fever sufferers also frequently present with associated conditions, such as asthma (which can cause shortness of breath) and eczema. If you struggle with allergies or asthmatic symptoms during autumn, make sure to stock up on antihistamines, nasal decongestants and pain medication to see you through the lockdown period. You can also ‘allergy proof’ your home by frequently vacuuming carpets, eliminating excess pet dander and by avoiding trigger foods, such as dairy.

Seasonal Colds And Flu

Telling the difference between a cold and a nasty flu is quite simple, as most of us battle with either each winter. However, discerning the difference between a cold, the flu or COVID-19 may be slightly trickier. The coronavirus shares a few common symptoms with colds and flu, which leads many to panic that they are infected with the virus when cold and flu symptoms present. To help you differentiate between a cold, the flu and COVID-19, run through this checklist of symptoms, assessing the severity of those you have presented with:

Cold symptoms:

  • Mild cough
  • Sinusitis or pressure headaches
  • Mild aches and pains
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing

Flu symptoms:

  • Low grade fever
  • Dry cough
  • Sinusitis or pressure headaches
  • Muscle aches and body pains
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Nasal and chest congestion
  • Loss of appetite or nausea

Rather than rush out to your doctor or to the emergency room, stick by COVID-19 protocols if you think you may have a cold or the flu. Self-isolate at home and call ahead to your GP to discuss your symptoms. You may also consider getting the flu vaccine before winter is in full swing or incorporating some immune-boosting habits into your daily routine.

flu or COVID-19


Symptoms of COVID-19 may present differently from person to person, varying in severity. The virus may take between two to 14 days to develop symptoms, which is why self-isolation, quarantine and social distancing are imperative at this moment.

COVID-19 is also far more contagious than the common cold and seasonal flu. One carrier may infect up to three other people. The virus is spread by coming into close contact with an infected person, inhaling droplets of the virus when speaking or after the infected person has coughed or sneezed. The virus can also live on surfaces and fabric for an undetermined amount of time. If you touch an object or surface which is covered in COVID-19 virus droplets and then touch your nose, eyes or mouth before washing your hands, you may become infected.

As we know, certain groups of people are more susceptible to developing complications from COVID-19, such as pneumonia and renal failure. These groups include the elderly, diabetics, those with heart and lung diseases and HIV/AIDS patients.

Here are the most common symptoms experienced by those who have contracted COVID-19:

  • Initially, a sore throat that lasts three to four days
  • Dry cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing (in severe cases)

flu or COVID-19


Most patients are able to recover from the virus at home, using over-the-counter medications. Consult your doctor to find the best medication to treat your symptoms. Please remain in self-isolation for a minimum of 14 days, even if you begin to feel better. You can also prevent spreading the virus by coughing and sneezing into a tissue or the crook of your elbow, continuing to wash your hands frequently and by wearing a surgical face mask. 

Where To Access Medical Information

Please contact the NICD hotline number: 080 002 9999 or visit their website for further information about COVID-19. You can also contact the South African Government COVID-19 WhatsApp service. Send the word “HI” to 0600 123 456 on WhatsApp.

For up to date information, statistics and insightful blogs, check out our section on COVID-19.

*We are not medical professionals. Always consult a doctor if you feel ill or require further information on COVID-19. 

Stay well, safe and healthy!