Do You Have COVID-19, Flu, a Cold or Allergies?

Private: Daniel A. Solomon, MD
Contributor Daniel A. Solomon, MD

If you’re not feeling well, you may be worried you have COVID-19 or another illness. The coronavirus, colds, flu and other viruses are spreading at the same time. Many people are also experiencing seasonal allergies.

These conditions have many overlapping symptoms. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know what’s causing your symptoms without testing. Find out what to do if you’re not feeling well. If you don’t have COVID-19, it’s possible you may have another infection. Other respiratory viruses are spreading in the community right now, including a late-season rise in flu cases. Your primary care provider can diagnose these infections and guide treatment.

Should you get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms?

“It’s important not to necessarily discount symptoms, even if they’re mild,” said Daniel Solomon, MD, an infectious disease doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “If you’re experiencing symptoms, you should get tested for COVID-19 so that we can guide appropriate treatment and give thoughtful direction about isolation in order to keep everyone around us safe.”

Patients can now schedule a COVID-19 test directly in Patient Gateway. Tests can be scheduled for symptoms, exposure, or elective reasons. If you schedule a test, you will see results in Patient Gateway as soon as they are available. Results are available within 48 hours.

Massachusetts has many testing options if you have any of the COVID symptoms listed below. If you live somewhere else, check your state website for resources. You also can use a home testing kit (often called antigen tests). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more information about home testing.

Please do not go to the Emergency Department or urgent care only to get a COVID-19 test.

What should I do if I test positive for COVID and I’m at high risk for severe disease?

If you’re worried about your symptoms, call your primary care provider’s office. You may be eligible for outpatient COVID treatment. Please note, we have limited supplies of these therapies.

What should I do if I test positive for COVID, but I’m not at high risk for severe disease?

Mild symptoms – Stay home and isolate.

Mild symptoms are a temperature below 100 degrees (below 102.4 degrees for children older than 3 months), aches and pains, or a mild cough. If you have these symptoms, stay at home and isolate. Rest, drink plenty of fluids, and monitor your symptoms. Hopefully, you will start feeling better within a few days. You do not need to contact your doctor to let them know you have COVID.

Moderate Symptoms – Call your doctor or go to urgent care or virtual urgent care.

Moderate symptoms in adults:

  • A fever higher than 100.4 degrees
  • A strong cough
  • Shortness of breath

Moderate symptoms in children (3 months+):

  • A fever higher than 102.4 degrees 
  • Strong coughing or shortness of breath
  • Sleepier than usual
  • If they have not gone to the bathroom in 10+ hours (if 3 or older) or 8+ hours (if younger than 3)

Severe symptoms – Go to the Emergency Department.

Go to the Emergency Department if you have severe symptoms such as:

  • Severe trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or dizziness
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

If you can’t get to the Emergency Department, call 9-1-1.

Get the latest COVID-19 updates at Mass General Brigham

Last reviewed: May 9, 2022

Private: Daniel A. Solomon, MD
Daniel A. Solomon, MD

Dr. Solomon is an infectious disease specialist at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Before you go,

Get additional tips on keeping your family healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more COVID-19 articles.