When COVID-19 Collides with Flu Season: Understanding the Differences

When COVID-19 Collides with Flu Season: Understanding the Differences

Every year as the summer winds down and school resumes, we all know flu season is just around the corner. But this year, our annual flu season hits while we are still amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

You have probably heard that COVID-19 and the flu share a lot of the same symptoms. Maybe you are even feeling a little under the weather right now. So how do you tell the difference between COVID-19 signs and flu symptoms? The short answer is: It can be tricky.

COVID-19 vs. the Flu: Symptoms

Symptoms of COVID-19 and flu are strikingly similar: fever, headache, cough, body aches and fatigue. But with COVID-19, the hallmark difference so far seems to be many people lose their sense of smell and taste, often leaving them unable to register strong odors like coffee or onions. Meanwhile, a stuffy nose and sore throat seem to be the best indicators of having the flu.

COVID-19 is much more contagious than flu, with about five days between exposure to the virus and the first symptoms' appearance, whereas the flu presents in as few as two days.

Many people who have COVID-19 do not show symptoms and are considered the most contagious approximately 48 hours before developing symptoms. Wearing a mask and following social distancing guidelines is imperative because of this delayed response to the virus.

With the flu, most people are more infectious after they have developed symptoms. The peak time for symptoms with the two viruses is drastically different. COVID-19 patients can experience severe symptoms up to two to three weeks after contracting the virus, while those with the flu generally feel symptoms within three to seven days.

It can be challenging to tell the difference between COVID-19 and flu. We encourage everyone to get their flu vaccine sooner rather than later since it can take two weeks to offer protection.

It's also important to know that Tallahassee Memorial is screening all patients and visitors for COVID-19 and following safety protocols in our primary care practices, ERs and Urgent Care Center, including caring for patients with and without suspected COVID-19 in separate secured areas.

If you're having COVID-19 related symptoms or have been exposed, call your primary care provider before going to the office.

Regardless of if you think you may have COVID-19 or the flu and have questions for your doctor, or if you're experiencing severe symptoms and need emergency or urgent care, rest assured you can seek care safely.

The Flu Vaccine

There are many reasons to get a flu shot. With it, you are up to 60 percent less likely to get the flu, and studies show that your flu symptoms will be less severe even if you do get sick.

It is possible to test positive for both COVID-19 and the flu simultaneously, which could be catastrophic for your immune system. In fact, getting infected with one can make you more vulnerable to getting sick with the other. While the flu vaccine does not prevent COVID-19, getting a flu shot can offer you an added layer of protection.

Decide to protect yourself and others around you this flu season and get your flu vaccination. Do not forget to wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands frequently.

Find a Doctor

If you're looking for a primary care provider, be sure to check TMHPhysicianPartners.org.

For more information regarding COVID-19 and the flu, visit our website.

By: John Streacker, MD, Medical Director of the Tallahassee Memorial Urgent Care Center

Comments are closed.