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Could My Winter Cold Have Been Coronavirus?

Could My Winter Cold Have Been Coronavirus?

Were you sick in early 2020 with a cold that lasted longer than normal or just wouldn’t go away? You may have even visited your doctor only to be diagnosed with an unknown virus. But could it have actually been COVID-19? According to health officials, it’s possible.

The first official case of COVID-19 wasn’t diagnosed in the U.S. until late January. However, it’s possible that the virus was circulating for weeks before tests became widely available. Symptoms of the virus mirror those of other viruses, including the common cold, so without a test, there’s no way to know for sure whether or not you’ve already had COVID-19. In general, colds are milder and shorter than this coronavirus, but symptoms vary wildly among those infected. Typically:

  • Cold symptoms (coughing, sneezing, mild headache, and sore throat) peak within 2 -3 days, while COVID-19 symptoms (fever, shortness of breath and dry cough) typically take longer to appear, averaging about 6 days but sometimes taking up to 14.
  • A cold doesn’t usually last longer than a week or two while COVID-19 lasts much longer – sometimes up to 6 weeks in severe cases.
  • A fever is a common symptom of COVID-19, though it is rarely a symptom of the common cold.
  • Shortness of breath is not typically a symptom of a cold, but it is a common symptom of COVID-19.

Scientists are currently working on blood tests to identify coronavirus antibodies so we can have a more complete sense of who had the virus already. This may be similar to blood tests we have available for infectious mononucleosis or "mono" - another viral infection commonly encountered. Testing approval will take time in order to ensure accuracy. In the meantime, don’t assume you’re already immune. Stay home as much as possible, wash your hands appropriately and avoid interacting with people outside of your household.

For more COVID-19 information, visit our COVID-19 Information page.