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Cold and Flu

What is the Difference Between the Flu & Covid-19?

Remember the stories that your parents would talk about walking uphill to and from school in the snow with holes in their shoes? We just kind of rolled our eyes and said, “Okay dad!” Relating to the past and history is sometimes a challenge to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. We are living through an incredibly unique time that even our parents had not experienced in their youth. Our great grandparents (that we may not even have a memory of) however, we can relate to a little bit more now.

  1. The outbreak of the Spanish Influenza in the United States. Lasting two years and causing over 500 million cases worldwide. The world shut down. Stay at home orders in place. Schools, theaters, and places of worship closed. Public transportation was limited. Mass gatherings were banned. Face masks became common in some places and in others it faced resistance of their use. Sounding familiar enough?

The Spanish Influenza and Covid-19. Two different respiratory viruses that have caused worldwide pandemics within almost a hundred years of each other. Covid-19 is caused by a new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, while influenza is caused by influenza A and B viruses.

These two viruses have not just affected our everyday life in similar ways. They have some common symptoms. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.

Similar Symptoms

Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

Different Symptoms:


Flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, including common signs and symptoms listed above.


COVID-19 seems to cause more serious illnesses in some people. Other signs and symptoms of COVID-19, different from flu, may include a change in or loss of taste or smell.


Both COVID-19 and flu can result in complications, including:

  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory failure
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (fluid in the lungs)
  • Sepsis
  • Cardiac injury (for example, heart attacks and stroke)
  • Multiple-organ failure (respiratory failure, kidney failure, shock)
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions (involving the lungs, heart, or nervous system or diabetes)
  • Inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle tissues
  • Secondary bacterial infections (infections that occur in people who have already been infected with flu or COVID-19)

Differences in Complications:


Most people who get flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications. Some of these complications are listed above.


Additional complications associated with COVID-19 can include:

  • Blood clots in the veins and arteries of the lungs, heart, legs, or brain
  • Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)

Living through a pandemic will be a story we will all tell and remember for the rest of our lives.  These viruses will be around for an awfully long time. Thank goodness we have a flu vaccine now, and with the covid19 vaccine now rolling out and being administered to healthcare workers and then the public, the end is in sight. But the changes they have brought to our society may have lingering effects.








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