FAQ: Flu Season Amidst COVID-19 – How to Differentiate Between Symptoms?

COVID-19 and seasonal flu can have almost similar signs and symptoms. How do you know the difference?

2 min read

COVID-19 has put “health and wellness” at the top of everyone’s priority. With health in the to-do-list, flu season can be particularly stressful for the healthcare in India.

The sudden rise in flu-like symptoms has made it vital to understand the difference between both the illnesses.

How do you differentiate between flu and COVID-19? Here's a short primer.


What is the difference between the causes of these two viruses?

Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses caused by different viruses.

  • COVID-19 is caused by a novel strain of coronavirus, ie, SARS-CoV-2, which was first identified in China.

  • Flu is induced by infection with influenza viruses.

What are the similarities between flu and COVID-19?

All respiratory illnesses share some similar symptoms. The most common ones include:

  • Fever (more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit)

  • Chills and fatigue

  • Headache

  • Cough

  • Sore throat

  • Runny nose

  • Body ache

Due to the similarity in symptoms and the difference in its reception from person-to-person, the only way to confirm if it is flu or COVID-19 is through testing.

When should I get tested?

Doctors believe that if symptoms persist for over 48 hours or the condition gets worse, one must get tested for COVID-19.


How are the symptoms of COVID-19 different from that of flu?

According to FIT, the COVID-19 symptoms that do not overlap or are rare in flu are:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Loss of smell and taste

  • Rashes on skin


How long does it take for symptoms to appear after infection in both the viruses?

  • In flu, it takes 1 to 4 days for a person to experience symptoms after being infected.

  • COVID-19 symptoms generally take 2-14 days to appear after exposure.


Between COVID-19 and flu – which one is more severe and spreads faster?

COVID-19 is more contagious and spreads faster than flu. Severe illnesses are more frequent with COVID-19 than the influenza. The mortality rate of COVID-19 is also higher than that of flu, various studies show.


What are the vaccines available for flu and COVID-19?

Multiple FDA-licensed influenza vaccines are available for protection against flu.

There are only limited number of vaccines produced – approved for emergency use – for protection against COVID-19. In India, you can currently get a jab of Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V, if you are above 18 years of age.

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