Is it Coronavirus (COVID-19) or Something Else?

Published: Apr 14, 2020

By Alison Pondo


With the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) occurring at the same time as allergy and flu season, many are left worried or anxious about whether the symptoms they have are COVID-19 or something else. Although the symptoms of these conditions can appear similar, there are clues and tips to know the differences between them.

JoAnn Shea is an APRN and director of Team Member Health at Tampa General Hospital. As her team has been evaluating patients and testing for COVID-19, the most common symptoms they’ve seen are fever, dry cough, body aches and headaches, and shortness of breath in more serious cases.

Although these are the most common symptoms, the virus has affected different people in different ways. So how do you know if your symptoms are allergies, a cold, the flu or COVID-19?

“Cold and allergy symptoms include itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing, which are not common symptoms of COVID-19,” Shea said.  “With most cases of flu, you don’t really see shortness of breath like what we’re seeing in the sicker COVID-19 patients.”

To determine if you’re experiencing shortness of breath, Shea recommends sitting at rest and seeing if you feel like you can get enough oxygen in your lungs for a full breath of if you feel like it takes more effort to breath. If you have these signs, it’s time to get checked out by a healthcare professional.

For fevers, most individuals that Shea’s team have seen have a temperature of at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit. She also notes that temperatures are usually lower in the morning and higher in the late afternoon, so taking your temperature twice a day is recommended.

If you’re experiencing symptoms and not sure what to do next, Tampa General Hospital has several care options and tools to help:

COVID-19 Risk-Assessment Tool

Our virtual COVID-19 assessment tool can help you determine what you should do next based on the symptoms you’re experiencing. Simply answer the online tool questions and we’ll advise you on what to do. Visit

TGH Virtual Health

Speak with a provider live, face-to-face from the comfort of your home. TGH Virtual Health providers can determine your risk level, recommend next steps based on your symptoms and health information, and prescribe treatment options to help relieve symptoms - 24/7/365.

TGH Urgent Care Powered By Fast Track providers are available 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
A TGH Virtual Health on-call provider is available 8 p.m. – 8 p.m. 

Download the TGH Virtual Health app now or visit to learn more.

Do not visit an emergency room unless you’re experiencing severe-level symptoms or have been instructed to do so by a provider. Severe-level symptoms include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in chest
  • New confusion
  • Bluish lips or face

To help combat COVID-19, testing availability continues to ramp up around the country. In Hillsborough County, drive-through testing by appointment only is available at Raymond James Stadium. Call (813) 272-5900 Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., to pre-register for an appointment.

“Our top priority is to flatten the curve,” said Shea. “Shelter in place - don’t allow yourself to be a host for this virus and we will get through this together.”