Is It COVID or the Flu?
January 15, 2022
It’s impossible to distinguish between the flu and COVID-19 based on symptoms alone.
The good news is that you can protect yourself from both infections with readily available vaccines.
And you should get those vaccines because both the flu and COVID can be deadly. More than 700,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and, during one of the worst flu seasons in history – 2017-2018 – about 61,000 people died of the flu.
Last year’s flu season was milder than usual because many people stayed home as COVID-19 closed offices, schools, travel, and restaurants. But, now that people are returning to the workplace, classrooms, and public spaces, flu cases are expected to rise again.
In a typical year, about half the people who come down with the flu feel miserable enough to visit a doctor. Seeking help with symptoms, which typically include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, fatigue, runny or congested nose, sore throat, muscle pain or body aches, and headache.
The problem is the same symptoms are associated with COVID-19. In fact, the one distinguishing symptom is that some COVID sufferers lose their sense of taste.
The only way to know if you have the flu or COVID-19 is by getting tested. The best way to protect yourself is by getting your flu and/or COVID vaccinations.
Getting Ready for Flu Season
It makes sense to take precautions to reduce the risk of both COVID-19 and the flu.
Limiting contact with people, wearing a face mask, and washing your hands frequently can protect you from both the flu and COVID-19. But the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is by getting both COVID and flu vaccines. Very few people who have been vaccinated require hospital care.
Flu shots are more important than ever. They reduce flu cases, and if you still get the flu virus, your symptoms will likely be milder. Getting a flu shot can also help reduce the load on our healthcare system.
Treating Flu Symptoms
If you have the flu, there are a few things you can do to make yourself more comfortable:
- Stay home and get plenty of rest. You’re contagious. Baby yourself at home.
- Drink plenty of fluids. It could be water, tea, juice, or nice brothy soups. All help you rehydrate.
- Treat aches and fever. Try to control your temperature and pain with over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Take care of your cough. Over-the-counter cough medicines may help.
- Sit in a steamy bathroom. It can help to alleviate stuffiness or congestion.
- Try throat lozenges. They can help soothe scratchy throats.
If your symptoms worsen after several days, you should call a doctor immediately. If you don’t have a doctor, Grady can help. Give us a call at (404) 616-1000. We’ll arrange an appointment at a Primary Care Center near you. Doctors can treat most conditions and provide access to Grady’s unparalleled medical specialty expertise.