Flu or COVID-19: Recognizing Symptoms and When to Get Tested

Flu or COVID-19: Recognizing Symptoms and When to Get Tested

Flu or COVID-19: Recognizing Symptoms and When to Get Tested


As the seasons change and respiratory illnesses become more common, it’s essential to stay informed about the symptoms of two highly contagious diseases: influenza (the flu) and COVID-19. Both the flu and COVID-19 can present with similar symptoms, making it challenging to differentiate between the two. In this blog post, we’ll help you recognize the differences, understand when to get tested, and when seeking urgent care services is necessary for your well-being and the health of those around you.

Understanding the Symptoms: Flu vs. COVID-19

The flu and COVID-19 share many symptoms, which can include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste or smell (anosmia)
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Given the overlap in symptoms, it can be challenging to distinguish between the two illnesses based solely on how you feel. However, there are some key differences to be aware of:

Flu Symptoms

  • Symptoms tend to come on suddenly.
  • Fever is common but not always present.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and vomiting are less common.
  • Muscle and body aches are prominent.

COVID-19 Symptoms

  • Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
  • Fever is often present.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms can occur, including diarrhea.
  • Loss of taste or smell (anosmia) is a distinctive symptom.

While these differences can help you make an educated guess, the only way to definitively diagnose whether you have the flu or COVID-19 is through testing.

When to Get Tested

  1. Experiencing Symptoms: If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms common to the flu or COVID-19, it’s crucial to get tested as soon as possible. Testing helps determine the appropriate course of action and prevents potential spread to others.
  2. Close Contact: If you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or the flu, especially if you haven’t been fully vaccinated or boosted, consider getting tested even if you don’t have symptoms. This can help detect the infection early and reduce the risk of transmission.
  3. Travel or Gatherings: If you’ve recently traveled or attended gatherings where you may have been exposed to individuals with COVID-19 or the flu, consider getting tested to ensure your safety and that of your loved ones.

When to Seek Urgent Care Services

If you or a loved one is experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, persistent chest pain, confusion, bluish lips or face, or other emergency warning signs, seek medical attention immediately. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. These symptoms can indicate a severe case of either COVID-19 or the flu and require urgent evaluation and treatment.

For milder symptoms that don’t require emergency care, consider visiting an urgent care center. Urgent care can provide timely testing, evaluation, and treatment for both the flu and COVID-19. Additionally, if you test positive for COVID-19, urgent care professionals can offer guidance on managing the illness and monitoring for any worsening symptoms.

Preventing the Spread

Regardless of whether you have the flu or COVID-19, it’s essential to take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus:

  • Isolate yourself from others as much as possible.
  • Wear a mask if you need to be around people.
  • Practice good hand hygiene, frequently washing your hands with soap and water.
  • Follow local health guidelines and recommendations for isolation and quarantine.

Recognizing the differences between flu and COVID-19 symptoms is essential for your health and the safety of those around you. If you experience symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, don’t hesitate to get tested. Flu and COVID-19 testing is the first step in getting appropriate care and preventing further transmission. And remember, for milder cases or if you’re unsure, our Laguna Beach urgent care center is there to help with on-site Covid-19 and Flu testing, evaluation, and guidance on managing your illness.

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