The Common Cold vs. COVID-19: What Are Some Key Differences?

In the last few months, most medical frontliners have been battling cases of COVID-19. As most researchers find necessary means of preventing any more future transmissions, most individuals will need to be vigilant of their surroundings. One of the best ways of ensuring we are not exposing ourselves to any infections.

Most individuals might shrug off the symptoms of COVID-19 as something similar to the common cold, but there are some differences. Of course, COVID-19 is even more dangerous (as of the present moment) than any other illness since it’s even more infectious, can thrive in different types of environments, and is potentially fatal in older adults. In some cases, the current strain of the coronavirus has also caused severe complications among younger individuals. 

Although we might just get sick with something as “harmless” as the common cold, most frontliners might still need to run tests on us to ensure that we are in the clear. But when most of these experts have their hands full, we will need to self-quarantine.

But even though there has been several information drives going around regarding the symptoms of COVID-19, most people are still unaware of the differences between each sign. In most cases, people will exhibit little to no symptoms, which can trick individuals into a false sense of security. 

So what are the differences between COVID-19 and the common cold? Here’s what you’ll need to know. 

Symptoms of Common Cold 

Compared to the coronavirus, the common cold is a respiratory infection that doesn’t necessarily affect the lungs but can still affect much of the sinus, nose, and throat. Typically, the common cold does not directly target the person’s lungs unless they have pre-existing conditions such as asthma or even emphysema. 

Some of the symptoms exhibited are:

  • Sneezing — This is a natural response of the body clearing out debris in the upper respiratory tract.
  • Coughing — Most people with the common cold will exhibit uncontrollable coughing, which can spread virulent particles in the air. 
  • Runny Nose — Usually caused by the uptick in mucus production. Not necessarily serious, but is quite visible. 
  • Sore Throat — This is usually caused by post-nasal drip and is characterized by mucus on the throat’s back. 
  • Fever — Fevers are one of the most common symptoms of the common cold. It is quite uncommon that a person won’t have a fever when they are coming down with a cold. 

Symptoms of COVID-19

It’s important to note that these symptoms can vary widely, and most won’t necessarily surface together. However, most cases will exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Dry cough — This is one of the most distinct symptoms that will set this aside from the common cold. It is characterized by little to no phlegm when coughing.
  • Fever — Characterized by body aches and can sometimes be mistaken for the common flu.
  • Shortness Of breath — Most individuals that have pre-existing conditions will experience shortness of breath. 
  • Sore throat — Just like the common cold, most patients will experience sore throat, although it’s quite uncommon.

What Are Some Key Differences?

As you can tell, both the common cold and the current strain of the coronavirus have similar symptoms. This is influenced by the fact that these are airborne diseases that explicitly target the respiratory system since this will also be their mode of transmitting to other hosts. In fact, this is one of the primary modes of transmission for viruses. Sneezing and coughing can easily infect others. 

But whether you are handling COVID-19 or just the common cold, it’s still vital that we ensure that our home is free from any virulent particles. Studies and previous findings have shown that COVID-19 and other types of viruses usually travel through water droplets in the air. If this is the case, air circulation can play a crucial role in transmissions. 

If you are managing a store or you just want to ensure that your home is safe from these virulent particles, you might want to invest in AC tune-up services that can help finely tune your air conditioning system for better air circulation. 

But the main contrast between COVID-19 is usually something that’s a bit more subtle than usual: dry coughing. Even though having an increased production of mucus and sneezing is quite possible with COVID-19, it’s more prevalent for COVID-19 patients to experience difficulty in breathing and coughing. When it comes to the common cold, having a runny nose and sneezing are more common. 

But even though you might have COVID-19 or just the common cold, it’s still important to closely observe your symptoms. It’s imperative that we follow guidelines as much as possible. Most government agencies set these guidelines to ensure that further spread is halted, which can help lower transmission rates. 


The bottom line? The common cold and COVID-19 have almost identical symptoms, but there are some key differences that most people will need to be vigilant with. Although it might seem like you can make your own conclusions based on these symptoms, you might have to seek help from professional medical experts rather than theorizing your condition based on these symptoms.

It’s important to note that you might quarantine yourself isn’t just for your own good; it’s also for the well-being of everyone else around you. We all have to do our part to ensure that we are all healthy. 


James Sullivan
the authorJames Sullivan