How to tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19

How to tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19
How do you know if the symptoms you’re experiencing are the flu or COVID-19? (Source: WBRC FOX6 News)

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The fall season brings cooler weather, but it also brings influenza season.

Flu season peaks between December and February but can last as late as May. However this year’s season will look different as the nation is also dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

How do you know if the symptoms you’re experiencing are the flu or COVID-19?

The flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses that have similar symptoms, according to Piedmont Physicians Doctor Jemese Richards-Boyd.

Both the flu and coronavirus have a wide range of symptoms. COVID-19 ranges from showing no symptoms to severe symptoms that could require hospitalization.

FLU and COVID-19 symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Muscle soreness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The biggest difference between the two illnesses is COVID-19 can cause a change in or loss of taste and smell. “That’s not something we see with flu illness, but it’s been a very common symptom for those with COVID-19,” Dr. Richards-Boyd said.

Dr. Richards-Boyd recommends calling your doctor’s office or booking a virtual visit as soon as possible when experiencing symptoms.

Another major difference between the two illnesses is there are antiviral drugs that can treat the flu. The antiviral drugs make the flu milder and will shorten the time a person is sick. The medication can also prevent pneumonia when treated early.

“There are not currently any drugs or other therapeutics approved to prevent COVID-19 like there are for flu illness, but there are studies in progress to learn more,” said Dr. Richards-Boyd. “If you are sick with COVID-19, your best form of treatment includes staying home and taking care of yourself as well as staying in touch with your doctor.”

A common denominator between the illnesses is how they’re spread. They can spread by droplets in the air when people with the illnesses cough, sneeze or talk around others.

“A flu shot is the first and most important step in protecting against flu,” said Dr. Richards-Boyd. “The flu shot has been proven to reduce cases of the flu and if you do still contract the flu virus, you’ll likely have milder symptoms and a lower risk of hospitalization and death.”

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, but vaccine developers and other researchers and manufacturers are working to develop one.

Safety precautions such as washing your hands, wearing a mask in public and maintaining social distance will help prevent the illnesses.

Copyright 2020 WTVM. All rights reserved.