COVID-19 or Influenza: How to Tell the Difference

With flu season already upon us, it’s more important than ever to know how to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the influenza viruses. While COVID and the flu share some similar symptoms, there are some distinct differences that will make telling them apart easier. Use our handy guide to quickly find out if your signs and symptoms match COVID-19 or the flu:

COVID-19

  • Easily spread: COVID-19 is an easily spread virus that comes in several variants. Infected patients begin spreading the virus 2-3 days before they even start showing symptoms themselves, making containment of COVID-19 particularly difficult. Infected patients continue spreading the virus for several days after showing symptoms as well. Even if a person shows no symptoms of COVID-19, they can still spread the virus to others.
  • Long incubation period: It takes anywhere from 2-14 days after a person has been exposed to the COVID-19 virus before they begin showing symptoms. Again, some exposed people never show any symptoms, but still spread the virus.
  • The symptoms of COVID-19 are still being studied, as different variants seem to cause different issues, but infected persons typically have:

    • Body aches
    • Chills
    • Cough
    • Diarrhea
    • Fatigue
    • Fever
    • Headache
    • Loss of smell
    • Loss of taste
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Shortness of breath
    • Stuffy nose
    • Runny nose

Influenza (Flu)

  • Easily spread: Just like COVID-19, the flu is a very easily spread virus. Infected persons begin spreading the virus about 24 hours before showing symptoms, and continue spreading it for about three more days after presenting symtoms.
  • Shorter incubation period: It takes much less time for the flu to manifest in infected persons. In fact, infection occurs just 1-4 days after exposure.
  • The symptoms of influenza are well-studied and accepted as:

    • Body aches
    • Chills
    • Cough
    • Fatigue
    • Fever
    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • Stuffy nose

As you can see, while COVID-19 and the flu share many symptoms, COVID-19 uniquely has the loss of smell and taste as symptoms, along with shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms, along with COVID’s longer incubation time, are key indicators of a COVID-19 infection versus an influenza infection. Differences in how the viruses spread can also clue your doctor into whether you’re dealing with COVID-19 or the flu.

If you believe you have COVID-19 or the flu and you live in the Tampa Bay area, AFC Urgent Care of St. Pete is just a phone call away! We offer the diagnostic tests needed to identify which virus you are infected with. After an accurate diagnosis is made, we have the knowledge and experience to treat your symptoms and keep you as comfortable as possible. Call (727) 685-3779 or contact us online today to start feeling better soon!