How to tell the difference between the coronavirus and influenza
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and the seasonal flu have some of the same signs and can range from no symptoms to severe illness.
Both infections can cause:
- Fever or chills
- Difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)
One frequent symptom of COVID-19 that doesn’t come with flu is a newly lost sense of taste or smell.
Emergency warning signs of infection from the coronavirus include:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
With either illness, contact a health care provider with any severe or troubling symptoms.
It can be difficult to tell based solely on symptoms whether an illness is COVID-19 or flu. Confirmation of either would have to come from a nasal swab test.
Plan on Getting a Flu Shot
If you normally get a flu shot at work, but are not working during the pandemic or are working remotely, you may need to make other arrangements. Similarly, if you tend to get your flu shot while running errands or when you think of it, we aren’t out and about like we used to be. Contact your primary care provider to ensure you’re up to date on the vaccinations you may need.
The common cold typically comes with a runny, stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat and body aches. Fever is not a common cold symptom, and while fever often accompanies flu, it doesn’t always.
Who’s vulnerable to COVID-19 or flu?
Anyone can get sick from the coronavirus or the flu — or both. Serious complications from these viruses can happen at any age.
Those who are older and those with severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious illness with COVID-19.
Similarly, the flu can strike anyone. As with COVID-19, anyone over 65 and people of any age with certain chronic conditions such heart or lung disease, diabetes, or asthma are at higher risk of developing serious flu complications. Flu can hit pregnant women and children under age 5 particularly hard. Kids younger than 2 years old are especially at risk.
What about vaccines?
As of yet, there is no vaccine for the coronavirus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a flu shot can reduce the risk of needing medical care for seasonal influenza by 40% to 60%. Flu often mutates over the course of a season, so each year’s formula isn’t 100% effective.
Because flu and the coronavirus are two different diseases, it will be possible to have both at the same time.
|Signs and Symptoms||COVID-19||Cold||Influenza||Allergies|
|Fever||Common||Rare||Usually; lasts 3 to 4 days||No|
|Aches||Sometimes||Slight||Usually; often severe||No|
|Chest discomfort, cough||Common||Mild to moderate; hacking cough||Common; can be severe||Sometimes|
|Shortness of breath||When serious||Rare||Rare||Sometimes|
|New loss of taste or smell||Common||No||No||No|