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flu vs covid

Is it Flu or COVID? How to Know the Symptoms

, by AussiePharmaDirect, 6 min reading time

The flu season is a period marked by increased cases of influenza, a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It is that time of the year when sniffles, coughs, and sneezes seem to be floating around like confetti. Influenza viruses are known for their ability to spread easily, particularly in crowded places. They’re little buggers that love to invade our noses, throats, and lungs, making us feel downright lousy.

However, since the emergence of COVID-19, the distinction between flu and coronavirus symptoms has become a topic of confusion. Both illnesses are respiratory in nature and generally share common symptoms such as fever, cough, and fatigue. 

We’ll help you further explore and understand the similarities and differences between the flu and COVID-19, by delving deeper into the subject such as specific symptoms, transmission patterns, and more.

What are the viruses that cause COVID-19 and flu?

The flu, also known as influenza, is caused by influenza viruses. These viruses belong to the Orthomyxoviridae family and are categorised into different types: influenza A, influenza B, influenza C, and influenza D. Influenza A and B viruses (with differences in their genetic makeup) are the primary types responsible for seasonal flu outbreaks in humans.

On the other hand, COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses known to cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.

How are they spread?

According to the World Health Organisation, the flu and COVID-19 share similarities in terms of how they are spread. Both are infectious respiratory diseases, so this means they are transmitted through respiratory droplets. 

The tiny particles are released into the surrounding environment when an infected person talks, coughs, sneezes or breathes. In a poorly ventilated space, these droplets may linger in the air, leading to a higher concentration of viral particles in the air, making it highly potential for others to inhale them and become infected. This is usually the case when people are in close proximity to one another.

Another way that these viruses can spread is through contaminated surfaces. Respiratory droplets containing the flu or COVID-19 can land on surfaces such as doorknobs, tables, or objects. If someone touches these surfaces and then touches their face, the viruses may enter their respiratory system.

What are the common COVID symptoms that are similar to that of flu?

Differentiating between influenza (flu) and COVID-19 can be challenging because they share several similarities in terms of symptoms. Here are some common COVID-19 symptoms that can overlap with flu symptoms:

  • Fever 
  • Cough
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Shortness of breath
  • Diarrhoea and/or vomiting

So, how to tell the difference between flu and COVID?

While influenza (flu) and COVID-19 share many similarities in terms of symptoms and mode of transmission, there are actually certain symptoms that can help differentiate between the two, such as:

Loss of taste and/or smell

Loss of taste (ageusia) and/or smell (anosmia) has emerged as a distinct and intriguing symptom associated with COVID-19. While it can occur in other respiratory illnesses, it has been reported more frequently in COVID-19 cases compared to the flu. Many individuals infected with COVID-19 have experienced a sudden and temporary loss of taste and/or smell, often without nasal congestion. This symptom, known as anosmia, can range from mild to severe and may persist for several days or weeks. Loss of taste, or ageusia, is often closely linked to anosmia. This unique symptom has been helpful in differentiating COVID-19 from the flu and has even been used as a screening tool in some diagnostic protocols.

Red, swollen eyes

The symptom of red, swollen eyes, also known as conjunctivitis or "pink eye," has been recently associated with COVID-19 in some cases. According to a study, individuals with COVID-19 who developed conjunctivitis exhibited symptoms such as redness, swelling, and irritation of the conjunctiva, which is the clear tissue that covers the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. Conjunctivitis associated with COVID-19 may occur concurrently with or follow the onset of other respiratory symptoms or may even present as the sole manifestation of the disease. Some individuals may experience it, however, it is not considered a defining or primary symptom of the disease.

Skin rash

The occurrence of skin rash as a symptom of COVID-19 has been reported in certain cases, though less common. Research has found that skin rash can be an atypical presentation of the disease, where these rashes may present as maculopapular eruptions (small, raised bumps), vesicular eruptions (fluid-filled blisters), or other forms of skin lesions. Despite this, it’s important to note that having a rash does not necessarily indicate COVID-19 as the main cause. 

Other factors, such as allergies, medications, or other viral infections (like measles), can also cause skin rashes. Therefore, it is crucial to consider other accompanying symptoms, and potential exposure to COVID-19, and consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Can COVID-19 symptoms get worse suddenly? Is it the same for the flu?

Both COVID-19 and the flu can lead to various complications, some of which can be severe. Here are common complications associated with both illnesses

  • Pneumonia
  • Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
  • Organ damage
  • Inflammation of different parts of the body such as the heart, brain and muscle tissue
  • Worsening of underlying medical conditions
  • Cardiac injury
  • Secondary infections
  • Sepsis
  • Blood clots (associated with COVID-19)

Who is at risk for severe illnesses?

Both COVID-19 and the flu can cause severe illnesses, but certain individuals are at higher risk for experiencing more severe symptoms and complications, which include:

  • Older adults aged 65 years and older. The risk of severe illness and mortality increases with age.
  • Individuals with certain underlying health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease (including asthma), diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, liver disease, and immunocompromised conditions.
  • People with weakened immune systems, such as those undergoing cancer treatment, organ transplant recipients, or individuals with HIV/AIDS

Pregnant women. They are at an increased risk of severe illness from the flu due to changes in the immune system and respiratory systems during pregnancy.

Summary

Here’s a summary of the differences between flu symptoms and COVID:

 

symptoms: Covid Vs Flu


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