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COVID vs Flu: Everything You Need to Know

COVID vs Flu: Everything You Need to Know

The viruses responsible for COVID-19 and common influenza (the flu) are similar in many ways. They are both respiratory illnesses, contagious when airborne, and have overlapping symptoms. However, since different viruses cause these illnesses, they differ in a few ways. The question of COVID vs flu is one many people have asked over the last two years, both for their safety and the safety of those around them.

With COVID symptoms often causing travel anxiety, time from work, or avoiding loved ones, knowing the difference between COVID-19 and the flu is essential. Making this distinction will allow you to quarantine appropriately, take the precautions needed, and receive the appropriate care faster.

Continue reading to learn about COVID vs the flu, including how they cause similar symptoms and how you can distinguish them. Contact us for Covid-19 testing with Speedy Sticks today. 

How to Distinguish COVID and Flu

Below, we will go over the common symptoms of COVID and the flu so you can make an educated guess about whether your symptoms relate to one or the other. However, we strongly encourage anyone with any of the listed symptoms to receive a COVID-19 test from their local doctor or pharmacy for several reasons.

The first reason is to confirm a diagnosis quickly and increase the chances of effectively quarantining and protecting your friends and family. The second is, since different viruses cause COVID and the flu, it is conceivable that a person could have a case of both at the same time.

This means that even if you think you have the flu, you should not act on that assumption without a proper test. Having or not having any of these symptoms is not a conclusive diagnosis of either disease. Ultimately, you can have all these symptoms and not have either condition.

COVID Symptoms vs Flu Symptoms

Despite potentially seeming similar or even occurring simultaneously, symptoms differ between the illnesses of the distinct viruses that cause COVID and the flu. Here are some of the ways in which the symptoms are similar:

  • Both COVID and the flu commonly cause exhaustion, starting early in the disease and progressing slowly
  • Both COVID and the flu commonly cause a high fever of 100 to 102 degrees (for COVID, it can be even higher) that can last for several days
  • Both COVID and the flu can cause body pain and widespread achiness
  • Both COVID and the flu commonly cause a cough that can range from mild to severe
  • Both COVID and the flu infrequently cause diarrhea

The symptoms of these diseases also differ in several ways. Neither the similarities nor the differences should be used to rule out COVID-19 without a proper lab test. However, in general, these differences may apply:

  • The flu commonly causes an intense headache while this is a rarer symptom of COVID
  • The flu commonly causes intense fatigue while COVID only causes this symptom in some patients
  • A stuffy nose, runny nose, and sneezing are possible with a case of COVID, but rarer than with the flu
  • Shortness of breath is rare in cases of the flu but a telltale sign of a serious COVID infection
  • A sore throat is very common with the flu but comparatively rare with COVID

None of these symptoms are impossible to have in either COVID or the flu and are therefore not reliable factors in differentiating them. However, trends in the differences in these symptoms can be used to form an initial impression and choose the next course of action.

Complications Resulting from COVID and the Flu

Both COVID-19 and the flu can cause serious complications. These include organ failure, pneumonia, heart attacks, heart inflammation, stroke, or even death. While most people with either of these illnesses can recover at home by resting and increasing their fluid intake, both can cause similar, equally severe complications. Even the “hallmark” complication of COVID happens due to flu also; acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Differences in How the Diseases Spread

Aside from the unique names of the viruses that cause these diseases (SARS-CoV-2 for COVID and Influenza A and B for the flu), the way they spread and the severity of their symptoms can vary. For example, COVID-19 is much more contagious and easily spread than the flu. It also has unique symptoms, such as a loss of taste and smell.

In terms of the severity of illness, COVID-19 is far more likely to cause a long-term lung injury than the flu. This is one reason that COVID mortality is so much higher than the flu. 

If you recognize any of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu, schedule a COVID-19 test with Speedy Sticks or at your local pharmacy or other testing areas to rule it out. While some symptoms are more likely to result from COVID or the flu, we can consider none a way to rule out COVID completely.

*This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace consulting with a healthcare professional. Please consult with your primary care physician or healthcare provider before engaging in any services offered by Speedy Sticks.