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COVID-19 or Flu? How to Tell

Overview

COVID-19 and the flu have similar symptoms. The two can be hard to tell apart. The only way to know for sure which illness you have is to be tested.

Since the symptoms are so alike, it makes sense to act as if you have COVID-19 until your test results come back. This means staying home and limiting contact with people in your home. You'll need to wash your hands often and disinfect surfaces that you touch. And be sure to wear a mask or face covering when you're around other people. This is also good advice if you think you have the flu.

COVID-19 and the flu have these symptoms in common:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

COVID-19 has another symptom that also may occur:

  • New loss of taste or smell

COVID-19 symptoms may appear from 2 to 14 days after infection.

Flu symptoms usually appear 1 to 4 days after infection.

The importance getting of a flu shot during COVID

It's important to get your yearly flu vaccine. Both the flu and COVID-19 are expected to be active during flu season. You can get sick with both infections at once. And having both may make you more sick than getting just one.

The flu vaccine won't protect you from COVID-19. But it can help prevent the flu or reduce its symptoms. If fewer people get very ill with the flu, this will help free up medical resources that are needed for COVID-19 patients.

Credits

Current as of: March 26, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Heather Quinn MD - Family Medicine
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine

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