COVID vs. Flu: When to Test for Both

COVID vs. Flu: When to Test for Both

The Symptoms of COVID and Influenza are very similar. Which should you test for?  

Three years ago, if a patient was complaining of body aches, cough, headache, chills, or diarrhea, you would have bet your bottom thermometer that it was the flu. However, when SARS-CoV-2 (COVID) hit the US in January of 2020, the diagnosis became more challenging due to the flu and COVID sharing extremely similar symptoms. Compared to the flu, COVID can cause more serious illnesses in some patients. COVID usually takes longer before symptoms appear, and with COVID people can remain contagious for longer periods of time. Here is a quick look at some of the similarities and differences in COVID and flu symptoms. 

Onset and duration of symptoms – Markers associated with Omicron are runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing and sore throat.Typically it takes longer for COVID symptoms to appear (2 to 14 days) than it does for the flu (1 to 4 days). Symptoms of the flu usually appear as severe and very sudden whereas COVID symptoms tend to begin mildly and become progressively worse. Also, while symptoms of the flu often resolve after 4-5 days, symptoms of COVID can last for up to 3 months, particularly with Omicron. 

Cough – Prevalent to both COVID and the flu. However, a flu-related cough tends to be mild, wet, and of short duration (1 to 4 days), and a cough associated with COVID is usually dry, can be severe and even painful, and can last for up to two weeks. 

Fever, Body Aches and Fatigue – A fever of 100 degrees or higher and fatigue is common for both viruses, although slightly less for COVID. Based on the most recent variant, Omicron, fever, body aches and fatigue are even less common compared to previous ones. 

Headache – Although this symptom is exhibited by both COVID and flu patients, it tends to be more severe for those infected by the flu. 

Symptoms unique to COVID – A sudden loss of taste or smell can be one of the first signs of COVID infection. Omicron has also been associated with other symptoms that are atypical with the flu, or even earlier COVID variants. These include persistent chest pain or pressure, new confusion, and difficulty waking up or staying awake.   

Self-diagnosis (often incorrect) or delays in treatment can be dangerous, so it’s important to know what’s ailing you and respond accordingly. Knowing for sure if you have COVID or Flu can help you prevent further spread and manage your illness, so getting tested is the first step. Premier Lab Solutions offers an all-in-one COVID + Flu A + Flu B + RSV panel using Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) for accurate results. With one swab, the patients’ mind is at ease. 

For more information on COVID vs. Flu and its differences, contact Premier Lab Solutions today. Our COVID resource experts are ready to assist.