The Common Cold vs COVID-19: How to Tell the Difference

When it comes to the common cold vs COVID-19, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two. Both are respiratory infections, but they are caused by different viruses and can have their own distinct symptoms. It is important to be able to identify their differences so that you can take appropriate precautions to protect yourself and those around you. Family Physicians Urgent Care is here to help! Learn the symptoms, transmission methods, and treatment options of each virus to know how to tell them apart and the best methods of recovery.


While there are many shared symptoms of the common cold vs COVID-19, there is a stark difference in their intensity. Common cold symptoms generally include a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, and sometimes a mild fever. These symptoms can last up to 10 days. COVID-19 symptoms, on the other hand, can be much more severe. Symptoms often include fever, dry cough, fatigue, body aches, chills, loss of taste or smell, and difficulty breathing. Milder symptoms may last for two weeks while severe COVID-19 cases may take up to six weeks for recovery.

Some people with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms. However, others may require hospitalization due to more serious complications from the virus. Note that some people may not experience any symptoms at all but are still able to spread the virus. 

During high-spread seasons, it is important to boost your defense against colds and COVID-19. Drinking plenty of water and supplementing with essential nutrients like Vitamin C, Zinc, and Vitamin D can all help strengthen your immune system. And getting your COVID-19 vaccine is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself from infection. 


The common cold is caused by a variety of viruses, most commonly the rhinovirus. It spreads the fastest through contact with infected droplets from sneezing or coughing. Contact with objects that have been contaminated with the virus and direct contact with someone who is already infected can also increase the rate of transmission.

COVID-19 is caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2. It is primarily spread through close contact with an infected person, often through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, talking, or exhaling. However, it can also spread through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects.

Both viruses can spread easily, but proper hygiene and social distancing measures can help reduce the risk of infection. To slow transmission rates, you can:

  • Wear masks.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home if you are feeling unwell.


Diagnosis for the common cold vs COVID-19 can be quite different. In the case of a cold, diagnosis is typically based on a person’s symptoms and does not usually call for testing. The most common treatment for the common cold is rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medications for symptom relief. 

A COVID-19 diagnosis requires special testing. This may be a molecular test, such as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which detects genetic material from the virus. Rapid antigen tests can also identify protein fragments of the virus and provide results within 15 to 30 minutes. Treatment for COVID-19 is typically similar to cold treatments, often involving supportive care such as medications to reduce fever and ease symptoms. In severe cases, patients may require hospitalization or critical care.

If you suspect that you or a family member may have been exposed to COVID-19, check-in to Family Physicians Urgent Care for a rapid COVID-19 test. Or, if you are experiencing active symptoms of either illness, let us help you find the tools you need to speed up your recovery.

Not Sure If It’s the Common Cold vs COVID-19? We Can Help!

If you are feeling under the weather, don’t wait to visit our urgent care. Our dedicated staff helps patients receive the diagnosis they need to determine the most effective treatment method. For those experiencing cold symptoms, stop by our urgent care or check-in online to reserve your place in line.

If you believe you or a loved one has contracted COVID-19 and need a rapid test, we recommend checking in online or calling ahead to help limit the spread. Give us a call at 337-888-3171 with any questions or to schedule your visit.