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COVID-19 vs the Flu: What You Need to Know

COVID-19 vs the Flu: What You Need to Know

COVID-19 is arguably the most jarring thing that’s happened in many of our lifetimes. Vaccines are being developed, but for now, it’s up to us to be as cautious as we can by wearing masks, safely distancing, and so forth.

While this virus is top of mind and not going away, we can’t forget that flu season is just around the corner. Like always, the coming months will lead to illness due to influenza, adding to the already overwhelming concerns we have about our health. Sure, we’re used to the flu, but when COVID-19 is in the mix, people will be wondering if their symptoms are “average” or something else. It’s unsettling and upsetting, but we can’t avoid the topic.

So, how can you be sure if you have the flu or COVID? In a nutshell, you may not be able to decipher what you’ve got based on symptoms alone, depending upon how you’re feeling. That said, there are some differences to note, as well as many which overlap.

As always, your vybe provider can examine you and test you, so don’t let any issue go unchecked if you’re feeling especially ill this year. We’re open 7 days a week with extended hours to help you address both flu and COVID-19 concerns. We also offer video visits for those who wish to be seen virtually.

Read on to learn the flu vs. COVID facts as well as the similarities in terms of symptoms, transmission, and treatment.

Many Symptoms Are The Same

Both the flu and COVID are respiratory illnesses. The causes are different due to the virus strains, but a number of the symptoms are the same for both. COVID is caused by SARS-CoV-2 and the flu is caused by influenza viruses.

Regardless of the cause, both illnesses can leave you feeling anything from mildly uncomfortable to unbelievably crummy. In the worse case scenarios, both can lead to advanced illness—even death. Fortunately, the yearly flu inoculation proves effective in reducing rates each season, and hopefully, there will be one for COVID soon as well. You can get your flu shot at vybe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put out a comprehensive guide to aid in understanding the similarities and differences between the flu and COVID.

The Overlap: These symptoms are common for both the flu and COVID:

  • Fever and chills
  • Hard to breathe, shortness of breath
  • Tired/fatigued
  • Runny/stuffed nose
  • Sore throat, cough
  • Body aches/muscle pains and stiffness/soreness
  • Headache
  • Nausea/vomiting/diarrhea (seen more in children than adults)

The main difference between the two viruses is that those with COVID may experience loss of smell and/or taste. Additionally, symptoms may take longer to present themselves for those who’ve contracted COVID. With the flu, symptoms generally emerge within 1-4 days post-exposure, while COVID can take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks to show signs or symptoms.

Severe Issues: Serious complications are relatively rare for both the flu and COVID, but they do exist. These include pneumonia, respiratory failure, fluid in the lungs, sepsis, heart attack, stroke, organ failure, inflammation of the brain or heart, and other bacterial infections. Those with COVID may also be at risk for blood clots.

How They’re Transmitted

Transmission for both the flu and COVID is similar—via one infected person coughing, sneezing, or even talking within close range to another person. The droplets in the air are passed from person to person, thus potentially infecting them with the virus.

COVID droplets may linger in the air longer, so when an infected person leaves the area, the virus could still be hanging around. “Superspreading” is more common with COVID, meaning multiple people can become infected at once.

As recommended (and in some situations, required), wearing a mask, distancing, and limiting large gatherings can help keep you safer from COVID, and will be effective in terms of flu prevention as well.


Feeling better is the key, and depending upon the severity of the illness, the path towards better health will vary. With either virus, if the symptoms are mild and bearable, some rest and recovery may be all you need to get back in action. Bedrest, plenty of fluids, good nutrition, and taking it easy may be doctor’s orders and all you need.

As for the flu, when symptoms are stronger, there are antiviral drugs available that can help. These prescribed medications can lessen the duration and severity of symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. These drugs include Tamiflu, Relenza, Rapivab, and Xofluza.

When it comes to COVID, the jury’s still out. Antiviral treatments using remdesivir and corticosteroids have proven beneficial for the critically ill patient but there is no prescription medication shown to help the mildly to moderately ill COVID patient.

If You’re Feeling Sick

If you’re run down with any of the symptoms mentioned above, see a vybe provider. He or she will recommend a strategy to address both the flu and COVID that may include testing or treatment for one or both. Your vybe clinician will provide you with information and guidance to recover, as well as suggestions to limit transmission to others. Don’t delay if you’re not well, as symptoms can progress. Stay safer this season by taking good care of your health and being careful as you associate with others.

When visiting vybe, let’s work together to reduce your time in our lobbies for the safety of all patients. Please schedule an appointment online and e-register before visiting. Also, please remember to bring your mask. If possible, please do not bring any additional friends or family members with you to your visit. Continuing to provide high quality, compassionate care for you and your loved ones is our number one priority.