Influenza or COVID-19?

Key differences separate the flu from COVID-19 in terms of symptoms, spread and treatment

With flu season approaching in the middle of a pandemic, it is important to know the symptoms of each to know how to treat the illness.

While both illnesses have similar symptoms, there are key differences that may help a sick person determine if what they have is influenza or COVID-19.

The CDC provides detailed information on their website, describing the similarities and differences, symptoms, information about spread, approved treatments and more.


Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:

• Fever or feeling feverish/chills

• Cough

• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

• Fatigue (tiredness)

• Sore throat

• Runny or stuffy nose

• Muscle pain or body aches

• Headache

• Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

Two additional symptoms that COVID-19 often presents set it apart from the flu. These symptoms are loss of taste or smell and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

Overall, because symptoms are so similar, the CDC recommends isolation and testing until one is certain what illness they have.


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