Distinguishing the Flu and Covid-19


Suddenly feeling under the weather with a sore throat, cough and/or fever? You’re probably wondering, “Is it the flu or is it Covid-19?” We are here to help you differentiate the symptoms between the two! Within this last year we have learned a large amount of information about Covid-19; however, we are still discovering more each day.


Unfortunately, the flu and Covid-19 have a lot of similar symptoms that may be hard to distinguish between.  Common symptoms that resemble one another include, but are not limited to: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, headaches, vomiting and diarrhea. Vomiting and diarrhea appear to be more common in children than in adults.

Unique to Covid-19 is the loss of smell and/or taste. Some people only experience loss of taste and some only fully experience a loss of smell, but most people typically lose both their sense of taste and smell temporarily.

A person with the flu or Covid-19 can be contagious before their symptoms appear. People with the flu remain contagious for approximately seven days, while people with Covid-19 can remain contagious for a minimum of ten days. However, both viruses can be spread between people who are within six feet of one another and spread through droplets that can be transferred when coughing, sneezing or talking with one another. Additionally, droplets can be transferred through touching objects that someone with either virus has touched, and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.


The onset of symptoms is different between these two viruses. Some patients with Covid-19 never develop symptoms. Typically symptoms of the flu appear anywhere from one to four days after exposure to the virus. Covid-19 symptoms appear between two and fourteen days if a person develops symptoms. The important difference is that it may take much longer for symptoms of Covid-19 to appear in people who have been exposed.

Through preliminary observation, Covid-19 seems to spread more easily between people than the flu does. This could be because there is a flu vaccine that people annually get, or because Covid-19 is a new disease, or some unknown factors. What we do know is that the ‘complications’ or negative outcomes of the virus affect patient populations differently. Children are more likely to develop a serious illness due to the flu, rather than Covid-19. Both viruses can result in complications such as pneumonia, respiratory failure, sepsis, inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissue, and organ failure. Covid-19 can also result in blood clots in various places in the body.

Currently there is no cure, targeted treatment or vaccine for Covid-19. However, for the flu there is a treatment, Tamiflu, and a flu vaccine available. Every year, we recommend people get a flu shot to help protect themselves from that virus, but this year with both the flu and Covid-19 virus we strongly recommend everyone get a flu vaccine.



As always, if you begin feeling unwell, monitor your symptoms and call your doctor to schedule an appointment and determine if flu or Covid-19 testing is appropriate for you. If you need medications from us, we offer curbside pick up so you won’t have to leave your car and worry about coming into close contact with anyone else.

As your local family pharmacy, we would be honored to administer your flu shot, provide recommendations on what over the counter medicines may help, and bring your medicines to you curbside or via free delivery to your home. We wish you continued health during this season. Stay safe!

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