COVID-19 or Flu? How to Tell
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. If you have questions about COVID-19 testing, ask your doctor or go to cdc.gov to use the COVID-19 Viral Testing Tool.
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 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
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle and body aches
- 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 can be active at the same time. 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 people who need urgent care, such as those suffering from COVID-19, heart attacks, and injuries from accidents.
Current as of: June 28, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Heather Quinn MD - Family Medicine
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine