Cold vs. COVID: How to Tell the Difference

A mother sits beside her son on the couch and holds her hand to his forehead to check for a fever.


Distinguishing between a common cold and COVID-19 can be tricky, given their overlapping symptoms. Yet, understanding the disparities between the two is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate care.

At State Urgent Care, we highlight the distinctions between a cold and COVID-19, empowering you to make informed decisions about your health.

Continue reading to learn more about differentiating between a cold vs. COVID below. 

What’s the Difference Between a Cold and COVID?

The common cold and COVID-19 are respiratory illnesses impacting the upper respiratory tract. However, they are caused by distinct viruses with differing characteristics. 

The common cold is primarily triggered by rhinoviruses, other viral strains like coronaviruses (not including the specific strain responsible for COVID-19), adenoviruses, and more. On the other hand, COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, belongs to the family of coronaviruses.

The novelty of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, contributes to its unpredictability and the variability of its impact on different individuals. Its ability to cause severe complications, including acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and multi-organ failure, sets it apart from the typical rhinovirus that causes the common cold. 

Moreover, COVID-19 has been associated with more prolonged illness and a higher risk of hospitalization and mortality compared to the common cold.

Understanding these distinctions is critical in recognizing the potential severity and complications associated with COVID-19, emphasizing the importance of accurate diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and preventive measures to mitigate its spread.

Is COVID a Flu or Cold Virus?

Neither. COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus, is often confused with the flu or a common cold. However, it’s distinct from both. While COVID-19 shares some symptoms with the flu and a cold, they are caused by different viruses. 

COVID vs. Cold Symptoms

Symptoms of COVID-19 and a cold overlap, including cough, congestion, sore throat, and fatigue. 

However, COVID-19 can lead to more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, fever, body aches, and severe fatigue. 

Is it a Cold or COVID? Here’s How to Know 

Differentiating between a cold and COVID-19 can be challenging, but some signs can help. 

COVID-19 often brings stronger symptoms like high fever, extreme tiredness, and loss of taste or smell, which aren’t common in a cold. It’s essential to see a doctor and get tested for COVID-19 if you have these symptoms, especially if you might have been around someone with it or if cases are high where you are.

Knowing these details helps you take the proper steps. If you think you have a cold or COVID-19, keep up good hygiene, wear masks, and keep your distance from others to stop it from spreading.

Get Tested for COVID at State Urgent Care

Your health matters, especially when you feel unwell with symptoms like a cold or COVID-19. 

Not sure which illness you’re dealing with? We gladly offer rapid COVID testing at our urgent care facility to help figure it out and get you the right care sooner. 

Just walk in any day without an appointment. Don’t wait—get checked and get relief soon!