Flu vs. COVID: What is the difference?

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Ingrid Hoffman

With the flu season quickly approaching, it’s important to be able to differentiate between the flu and COVID-19.

Nathan VanUtrecht, Copy Editor

With flu season approaching, many people are fearful of the potential dynamic between the flu and COVID-19. What are the differences in symptoms and how should one know which one they have?

According to Pam Cinadr, nurse at PVHS, the difficulty of differentiating between the two lies in the commonality of the symptoms. “COVID-19 and the flu have several overlapping symptoms, including fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, vomiting and diarrhea,” she explained. However, there is one symptom which is present in only COVID-19..

The notable symptom is a change in, or loss, of taste and smell. Having this symptom is an indicator of COVID-19. 

Another factor in deciding between COVID-19 and the flu is the amount of time between exposure and initial symptoms. While it varies per case, the flu has a one to four day incubation period whereas COVID-19 can incubate for five to 14 days.

The final difference between the flu and COVID-19 is the recovery time. Cinadr recommends staying home regardless of the virus, but most people recover from the flu faster than COVID-19. If you see prolonged symptoms or drawn-out recovery times, it is possible that you are infected with COVID-19 and not the flu.

In order to stop the spread of both diseases, Cinadr advises that students continue to follow COVID-19 guidelines as well as flu prevention strategies. “Get extra rest, drink plenty of fluids, exercise and get the flu shot,” Cinadr suggested. She also mentioned that many of the COVID-19 prevention strategies  will help to curb the spread of all viruses during this flu season.

For student Justin Shin, being able to differentiate between the two is important. “Both my mom and I have asthma, so we’re understandably nervous about the upcoming flu season,” he said. “I want people to know the difference between the two viruses so that we can be safer.” He added that people are more comfortable with the flu, so they might still go out in public regardless of whether or not they are sick.

Although this flu season can be unpredictable, Shin and Cinadr believe that following COVID-19 protocols, along with usual flu season guidelines, will help to mitigate the influx of virus cases.