Q: Nurse Lynette, how do I know if I have COVID or the Flu? 

As I have visited parishes this month, this has been a frequently asked question. COVID and the flu have similarities, but there are some differences.

COVID-19 and the flu have many symptoms in common, ranging from no symptoms to mild to severe:   Fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, and nausea or stomach upset.

Because COVID-19 and the flu have such similar symptoms, it can be hard to diagnose which condition you have based on your symptoms alone. Testing may be needed to see if you have COVID-19 or the flu. You also can have both diseases at the same time.

Per an article from Dr. Lisa Maragakis at John Hopkins University, she stated, both the flu and COVID-19 also spread in similar ways. “Droplets or smaller virus particles from a sick person can transmit the virus to other people nearby. The smallest particles may linger in the air, and another person can inhale them and become infected.  People can also touch a surface with viruses on it, and then transfer the germs to themselves by touching their face.”   Dr. Maragakis also noted the symptoms for COVID-19 and flu appear at different times. COVID-19 symptoms generally appear 2 to 14 days after exposure. Flu symptoms usually appear about 1 to 4 days after exposure.” With COVID-19, you may be more likely to experience loss of taste or smell.

The Mayo Clinic also had an article on comparing the flu and COVID. This article stated, “COVID-19 appears to be contagious for a longer time and to spread more quickly than the flu. People infected with the coronavirus or the flu may not realize they are sick for several days, and during that time can unknowingly spread the disease to others before they even feel sick. “Severe illness is more frequent with COVID-19 than with the flu. Compared with historical flu cases, COVID-19 may cause more hospital stays and death for people ages 18 and older, even those who have no other health challenges. Another difference is that the flu can be treated with a few different antiviral drugs. Only one antiviral drug, called remdesivir, is currently approved to treat COVID-19. Researchers are evaluating many drugs and treatments for COVID-19. Some drugs may help reduce the severity of COVID-19.”


COVID-19 vs. flu: Similarities and differences – Mayo Clinic

COVID-19 vs. the Flu | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Symptoms of COVID-19 | CDC