Is It a Cold, Flu or COVID-19?

They’re All Viral, and They Share Some Symptoms; Here’s Help With Telling the Difference

Eric Wasserman, MD

It’s happening now and likely to increase during flu season: Patients have upper-respiratory symptoms and worry that these indicate COVID-19.

“Call your primary care doctor and describe your symptoms to know what your next steps should be,” says Eric Wasserman, MD, Chairman and Medical Director of the Emergency Department (ED) at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “However, if you feel that your symptoms warrant a trip to the ED, by all means, you should come in.”

Statistics show that people with underlying health issues, such as cancer or diabetes, are more at risk from COVID-19, as are African-Americans and Latinos.

“In general, I’d advise people to try to stay calm,” Dr. Wasserman continues. “The likelihood that you’re going to recover from any of these is very high. The important thing is to seek medical attention when you need it.”

Use this chart to get an idea of what symptoms may mean.

To find a primary care physician at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, call (888) 724-7123 or visit