COVID-19 versus Flu Symptoms

As COVID-19 cases are on the rise again and temperatures begin to cool down, you may wonder if that cough or fever is the flu or the novel coronavirus. Knowing the difference between these two highly contagious respiratory illnesses can help you get the right treatment for a speedy recovery. 

What’s the flu?

We’re sure you’ve heard about the flu at some point in your life, but maybe you’ve never taken the chance to learn more about what it is or how to detect the symptoms. The flu is a respiratory illness that is caused by influenza viruses that target the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Spread by small droplets that are emitted while sneezing, coughing, or talking, this virus can be quite contagious. The Center for Disease Control estimates 38 million symptomatic cases of the flu will occur in the United States between 2019 and 2020. With so many cases, it’s important to know the symptoms so you can get the proper treatment if you’re feeling unwell.

Symptoms of the flu can include: 

  • Fever (temperature over 100°)
  • Cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Headaches

If you have at least one of the above symptoms, you may be infected with the flu. These symptoms come on quickly, typically 1 – 4 days after your initial exposure. If you or a loved one displays any one of the above symptoms, it’s important to limit contact with others by staying home from work or school. The CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except for getting medical care or other necessities. Getting plenty of rest and drinking water are additional ways to help your body fight off the flu virus. 

What’s COVID-19

Similar to the flu, COVID-19 is an illness that targets the respiratory system such as the lungs, nose, and throat. First discovered in late 2019, this virus also spreads through droplets emitted when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or breathes. One key danger of COVID-19 is that someone who is infected may not display symptoms while still contagious. Those who are asymptomatic carriers can continue to spread the disease if they are not practicing social distancing, or wearing a mask while in public places. 

While this disease has been discovered for over a year, scientists are still discovering new information about this particular coronavirus. For any new information regarding how the disease is transmitted or new symptoms, please visit the CDC’s website

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include: 

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • New loss of taste or smell

While the flu symptoms can come on rapidly, COVID-19 symptoms can develop between 2 and 14 days after the initial exposure with the average case showing symptoms on the 5th day after exposure. Even though someone may not display symptoms until 5 days after the initial exposure, they could begin to spread the virus days before. If you or a loved one is experiencing at least two of the symptoms above, it’s important to get tested to know if you’re infected and self-isolate for a period of two-weeks to limit exposing others. 

What’s the difference?

The flu and COVID-19 contain very similar symptoms, however, there are a few key differences between the two. While coughing may indicate an infection of either disease, the flu produces a more mild, dry cough, with COVID-19 producing more of a persistent cough that’s also dry but can leave you short of breath. COVID-19 may also result in a new or sudden loss of taste and/or smell, which is different from the flu. 

Get Tested

While comparing what you’re feeling to a list of symptoms can help you get a better understanding of what your body is fighting off, the only way to diagnose your illness is through testing. With both flu tests and COVID-19 tests available at select locations, find your local ARCpoint Labs and schedule your appointment. As COVID-19 cases are on the rise nationwide and flu season approaches, we’re here to help you get the information you need to stay safe.