Do I have COVID or the flu?

COVID-19 and the flu share many similar symptoms, and with flu season right around the corner, it’s important to understand the differences between the two. Both viruses are spread the same way – through droplets from the respiratory system that are inhaled through the mouth or nose of another person nearby. It’s estimated that up to 56 million people were infected with the flu from 2019 to 2020, however, COVID is a much more contagious virus that can lead to severe complications. 

Symptoms of the Flu

Symptoms of the flu can begin 1 to 3 days after exposure. Cases can be contagious one day before seeing symptoms. To help protect yourself and others around you from getting the flu, you can receive a flu shot. This shot protects against the four strains of the flu and will keep you covered for all of flu season. If you still contract the flu even after receiving a vaccine, your symptoms will likely be much less severe. Common symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Body aches or chills
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat

The most considerable distinction that it is the flu is how quickly the symptoms show up. Symptoms will typically show up soon after exposure and all at once, and they can range from mild to more severe, but the first few days will likely have all of the symptoms. Some cases of the flu experience very severe symptoms and may require hospitalization. The flu shot does not protect you or others against COVID-19. 

Symptoms of COVID-19

A majority of COVID-19 cases often experience very mild or no symptoms at all. If there are symptoms, they can show up between 2 and 10 days after exposure. COVID cases are sometimes contagious two days before symptoms show up. There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. The only way to know if you have an active case is by receiving a rapid test. Symptoms of COVID can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

With COVID, the cough will be persistent and dry. This is another differentiation factor between COVID and the flu. Since many COVID cases are asymptomatic, it’s important to get tested as soon as you know you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive. You are still able to spread the COVID virus even if you are not experiencing symptoms. The best way to protect yourself and others from COVID is by wearing a mask covering your nose and mouth when around others and maintaining a social distance of 6 feet or more from others.