Telling the difference between COVID-19 and the flu can be tricky since they share many of the same symptoms. As we enter flu season, it’s even more important to know whether you have the seasonal flu or the more serious coronavirus. Keep reading for more information about COVID and the flu.
What’s the Difference Between COVID-19 and the Flu?
The flu is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It is common worldwide and is contagious, spreading from person to person through respiratory droplets. The infection mainly occurs in the nose, sinuses, and throat but can travel to the lungs in more severe cases. In the majority of cases in normally healthy people, the flu is not life-threatening. For those with additional risk factors, the flu can lead to pneumonia or other respiratory issues.
Like the flu, COVID-19 is also caused by a virus, called coronavirus. It, too, affects the nose, sinus, and throat, but it is also much more common to infect the lungs as well. Around 80% of COVID patients are able to recover at home, but 20% need hospitalization and more intense care.
COVID-19 can appear to be the same as the flu, as they have several symptoms in common, such as fever, cough, congestion or runny nose, and body aches. However, several symptoms are present with COVID that aren’t present with the flu: loss of taste or smell, gastrointestinal issues, and even eye problems may be present in some cases of severe advanced infection.
What to Do if You Have Symptoms
If you develop flu-like symptoms, the CDC recommends that you stay at home and quarantine, just in case it could be COVID. Even if you’re confident that your symptoms are from the flu and not the coronavirus, you should opt to have a COVID-19 test performed. As the virus continues to spread, testing is crucial in getting numbers back in control. A negative test can rule you out for COVID-19, and then you can receive proper treatment to manage your flu symptoms.
What if I Have COVID?
If you have received a positive test result, you should continue to quarantine at home for two weeks. Once it has been ten days since the start of the illness and you have not had a fever for 24 hours (without the use of fever reducers), you are considered to be no longer contagious.
How to Prevent Getting Sick
The best way to stay safe and prevent yourself from getting sick is to follow local and national health measures and precautions. Wear a mask when out in public, and try to maintain six feet of distance between others. Avoid crowded indoor events as much as possible. If you can, stay at home and order essential items online.
Still have questions about COVID-19 or the flu? Contact your local urgent care center for everything from flu shots to COVID testing.