In the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, flu season is here too and both viruses will be spreading over the next few months. If you get sick, how do you know whether you have the flu or COVID-19?
There are more similarities between the two illnesses than differences, including their symptoms, making it difficult to know which virus you have. If you become sick, experts recommend that you call the doctor with your symptoms and begin to quarantine. A test may be necessary to determine which virus is making you ill.
Some of the differences are that COVID-19 spreads more easily and causes more serious illness in some people. If exposed to the coronavirus, it may take longer for you to show any symptoms and you can be contagious for a longer period of time.
Also, there is a vaccine to protect you from the flu, but no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 at this time. It’s more important than ever to get your influenza vaccine. A rush of both illnesses in an area could make it hard for doctors and hospitals to care for a sudden surge of sick patients. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all people 6 months and older get their yearly flu vaccine.
Symptoms of influenza include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, fatigue and in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea. Not everyone who has the flu will have a fever. The symptoms of COVID19 closely mirror flu symptoms but may also include a change in or loss of taste or smell. COVID-19 emergency warning signs include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, not able to awaken or stay awake and bluish lips or face. If someone has any of these signs, you should get emergency medical care immediately.
Also, it is possible to have both influenza and COVID-19 at the same time which could lead to more serious illnesses and even death.
Those at highest risk for either illness include older adults, people with underlying medical conditions or women who are pregnant. Healthy children face a higher risk for complications from influenza. Infants and children with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for both.
Both COVID-19 and flu can result in serious complications, some of which include pneumonia, respiratory failure, fluid in the lungs, sepsis, heart attack or stroke and multi-organ failure. Additional complications associated with COVID-19 can include blood clots in the veins and arteries of the lungs, heart, legs or brain.
What can you do to help stay safe and prevent these viruses from spreading? Follow the recommendations we’ve all known about since the onset of the pandemic:
- Wear masks in public settings around people who don’t live in your household and when you can’t stay 6 feet away from others. Masks should be worn by people two years and older. Masks should NOT be worn by children younger than two, people who have trouble breathing, or people who cannot remove the mask without assistance.
- Stay home as much as possible, avoiding close contact with others.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you’re sick.