Cold, allergies, flu or Covid-19? Health experts say only way to find out is to get tested

Is it a cold, maybe the flu, or maybe you have coronavirus. It's a mental battle many of us will be fighting as we head into winter.

Health experts admit it's a complicated battle with huge consequences such as staying home from work and school.

Lauryn Lesley has felt a little under the weather the past few days. Her first coronavirus test came back negative, but she came out to the Moorhead saliva test site to get a retest.

"I think it's normal to experience a little anxiety, because it's hard to pinpoint since the symptoms are very similar to what we experience with bad colds and flus," she said.

In the meantime she has remained home until she gets the results from a second test.

"There's a social responsibility to it, it's important to let people know you have been exposed," explained Lesley.


When it comes trying to figure out your symptoms the medical experts say its just as difficult for them.

"To try and decipher if a cold or influenza or covid is challenging," explained Tiffany Boespflug with Grand Forks Public Health.

The only real difference in symptoms, some people with coronavirus infections lose their sense of taste and smell. But that's not all cases, so there is only one prescription if you feel sick at all. Get a test.

"You have to rule out Covid-19 with the different severities with Covid," explained Boespflug.

The experts say over the counter medicines are not a solution even if you only have mild symptoms.

"It might relieve some of your symptoms, but it's not going to treat the virus from not being infectious," said Boespflug.

One other difference, is if you have a coronavirus infection, you are contagious much longer than with the common cold. Health leaders say with so many different bugs going around this time of year they have one request, even if your throat is a little scratchy.

"With the spread of the disease happening, it's recommended that if you are sick with any kind if illness that you quarantine, stay home and get better," Boespflug said.


That's what Lauryn plans to do. She calls it a "thing of kindness."

"Just be as ethical as possible, because you don't know who is going to be on the receiving end, and they may have a much harder time getting through the illness than you would," said Lesley.

Health leaders say by getting a flu shot this year it will help stop the spread of another respiratory illness, and it could save you from having to get a precautionary coronavirus test.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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