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COVID-19, flu or allergies? How you can spot the differences

The flu shot will play a key role this year. This is also the first year we'll see how masks and social distancing impact flu cases.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Doctors are ready to tackle a fall and winter season like no other. This year with allergies, the flu and COVID-19 all in the mix, many said it might be easy for some people to confuse symptoms. 

Most people all familiar with what it's like to have sniffles, runny eyes and coughing. Those symptoms start back up around this time of year. 

Before, most people would just have to try and tell the difference between flu or allergies? But now, COVID-19 is in the mix. 

Let's break it down. Allergies typically come with sneezing, watery eyes and a stuffy nose. The flu comes with a fever, cough, aches, chills and fatigue. 

"You probably won't have a fever with allergies but certainly that with the flu and COVID-19," said Dr. R. Michael Green. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 are fevers, shortness of breath, cough, aches and loss of smell or taste. It's more similar to the flu than allergies, but Green said we have a way to prevent at least one.

"Every year it's important to get the flu shot," he said. "This year is the most important in all of our memories."

The flu shot will play a key role this year. This flu season will also be the first year when officials will be able to how masks and social distancing impact flu cases.

"Things we've really never undertaken for the flu so hopefully the flu will be lessened," said Green. 

Continuing to take allergy medicine will also help lessen confusion about whether a person has the flu, COVID-19 or simple allergies since it may help to decrease symptoms. 

The CDC estimates there were between 400 and 700,000 flu hospitalizations last flu season. 

That in addition to COVID-19 hospitalizations has the potential to put stress on hospitals. 

Flu shots are already available for the season. A COVID-19 vaccine is still in the works.