Dr. Travis Stork on the Symptoms That Separate Coronavirus From Seasonal Allergies and a Common Cold

Dr. Travis Stork breaks down the differences that separate coronavirus, seasonal allergies and the common cold.

By Alli Rosenbloom, Pamela Avila Mar 23, 2020 10:27 PMTags
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The Doctors host Dr. Travis Stork explains the difference between knowing whether you might have contracted COVID-19 or if you're experiencing symptoms that are associated with the flu, the common cold or seasonal allergies in an exclusive interview with E! News. 

While you may know Dr. Stork from The Bachelor, he has since made a name for himself as a TV personality and an emergency physician. On Instagram, the physician has been consistently sharing updates and posting informational videos surrounding news about coronavirus

Speaking to E! News, the Vanderbilt University Medical Center alum talked about knowing when to visit the emergency room if you believe you might be experiencing coronavirus symptoms versus self-isolating, quarantine or self-distancing yourself. He also stressed how important it is to keep up good hygiene practices during the coronavirus outbreak and the importance of also taking care of yourself in order to quiet the panic. 

The 48-year-old also started a new podcast The Doctors Podcast with Travis Stork where he hopes to "balance the conversation with my honest opinion as a physician and inviting guests on that are both [on the] front lines but also smart people [that can help] during this time of confusion." 

Read our full interview with Dr. Stork below! 

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E! News: What's the difference between knowing if you have the flu, the coronavirus, allergies or just a common cold?

Travis Stork: The influenza virus is one that we're familiar with and it hits every year with a vaccine and although not perfect, [the vaccine] helps prevent a lot of cases. [...] It's tricky because so much is still so unknown but [COVID-19] is definitely steelier, more contagious and more deadly than influenza. Our immune systems do not recognize it so there's no familiarity with it. You cannot always tell the difference between influenza, a coronavirus infection versus a common cold versus allergies. There are luckily some differences but the key—and this is where we've been a little behind the eight ball—is we haven't had widely available testing. That is why doctors across the country are saying there are still so many unknowns because likely there are thousands, tens of thousands of people out there with coronavirus. They just don't know it because they haven't had access to testing yet.

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On the other hand, the thing with allergies is if you get them seasonally you should know what that looks and feels like and with allergies, it is your immune response responding to an allergen in the air and that typically can cause things like itchy, watery eyes. You can certainly get a runny nose, you can get post nasal drip that causes coughing or irritation from that. But by and large, you shouldn't be getting fevers, body aches, or shortness of breath so that's really an important distinction.

Ultimately, everyone wants to be told well if I have these symptoms, what is it? Without testing, you don't know.

E! News: How do you know when to go to the ER versus self-quarantine?

TS: If you're legitimately concerned for your health, that's why emergency departments exist. If you're worried about whether or not you have it, but you feel great otherwise and you're not concerned, Telemedicine is a great platform. You're using technology to interact with an informed source and if you live in a community that has mobile testing, figure that out now and that way if you do get to a place where maybe you feel pretty well but you think you might have it because you have a low-grade fever, body aches, cough—but again, don't feel like you need the ER—then you can find out where you might be able to get tested. If you do need the emergency department. Call ahead and try to figure out what the policy is. ‘Hey, I think I might have coronavirus, I really feel like I need to be seen, what is your policy right now?' And then we hopefully are able to treat you but also prevent you from potentially infecting others.

E! News: Can you talk more about best practices for hygiene, staying clean and washing your hands?

TS: Right now, the three most effective tips for anyone out there is hand washing for twenty seconds, at least—and religiously. Do not touch your face, do not touch your eyes, do not touch your nose. And then this is the most important thing, with social distancing we need to change our habits. These are not times where the typical handshakes and high fives are appropriate. In fact, they're inappropriate. So, social distancing doesn't mean that you can't walk outside with your dog and talk to your neighbor, what it means is you don't go and walk your dog outside and hug your neighbor. Ideally, we're talking about the six feet of separation.

It's okay to go outside and walk around, in fact Vitamin N right now is probably one of the best vitamins we can get, which is a little bit of nature. Getting outside as long as you maintain that social distance of six feet is reinvigorating.

Dr. Travis Stork's answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic and for tips on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, please visit The Center for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov. To plan your vaccine, head to NBC's Plan Your Vaccine site at PlanYourVaccine.com.