Is it COVID-19 or the flu?

man wiping nose with tissue

The impact of COVID-19 on the world has been catastrophic. However, its existence has not eliminated other health threats and concerns. Amidst the pandemic, the flu has continued to impact and affect people’s health. However, there are many similarities between the two diseases and their symptoms. This has resulted in many people asking, “is it COVID-19 or the flu”? Here’s what you should know about the similarities and differences between these two illnesses. 


COVID-19 and the flu are both highly contagious respiratory diseases. This means that many of their symptoms are similar (thus the confusion). While not everything about these two illnesses is the same, here are the common similarities between the two. 

  • 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

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, consult your physician. Both COVID and the flu can become deadly if left untreated. Take care of your health and ask your doctor for help diagnosing your illness and providing the best treatment plan possible. 


While COVID-19 and the flu possess many similar symptoms, there are a few key differences. 

Onset Of Symptoms

The flu typically comes on quite suddenly. After the initial infection, symptoms arrive 1-4 days later. COVID symptoms, however, are often much more gradual and can arrive as soon as 2 days after infection (although this is rare). It can take up to 14 days for COVID symptoms to set in after the initial infection. 

Type And Severity Of Cough

When you have the flu, your cough is typically mild and dry. COVID, on the other hand, is more severe and can leave you breathless. 

Unique Symptoms

COVID-19 has several symptoms that aren’t typically (there are exceptions, although they’re rare) ascribed to the flu. These include:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • New and sudden loss of taste or smell

Symptoms Needed For Diagnosis

One of the key differences between the flu and COVID is the number of symptoms needed for diagnosis. You can be diagnosed with the flu while only exhibiting one symptom. However, a COVID diagnosis requires at least 2 symptoms. 

Commonly Asked Questions

Here are a few of the commonly asked questions on this topic.

Do Symptoms Differ Between Children/Adults Or Men/Women?

While the symptoms themselves do not change according to age or gender, their regularity does. It is more common for children to experience gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, or nausea. 

How Is The Common Cold Different From COVID And The Flu?

The main difference between a common cold and COVID or the flu is the type of cough. Colds produce wet coughs full of phlegm and mucus, whereas COVID and the flu tend to result in dryer coughs.

Is COVID More Dangerous Than The Flu?

Yes. While both diseases can be passed on as soon as 1 day after infection, someone infected with COVID will often remain contagious for a longer period of time, increasing their chance of infecting others. 

Is It Possible To Have COVID And The Flu At The Same Time?

Yes. It is possible to suffer from multiple respiratory illnesses at the same time. However, this diagnosis can be missed due to overlapping symptoms. 

How Can We Help?

Work Health Solutions offers comprehensive healthcare solutions for your medical needs. Our qualified team treats patients and employers alike and always provides top-quality service. Our quality service is backed by years of experience working with academic and research institutions, corporate healthcare, Fortune 25 companies, small governments, and local businesses. Reach out today with any questions you may have about how we can assist you!

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