Is it the Flu or is it COVID-19? Know the difference!

Not only are we in a COVID pandemic, but cold and flu season is also upon us!

If that isn’t scary enough, we know that COVID and the flu have some similar symptoms.

First things first… make sure you and your entire family gets the flu shot… seriously, get.. the… flu… shot! The flu shot will not only protect you and your family, it also prevents unnecessary hospitalizations. Our hospitals and health care professionals are stressed, we can help them by staying healthy and staying out of the hospital. If you don’t have insurance and haven’t gotten the flue shot yet, fear not – you can still get it for free.

Now, before we panic at every cough, sneeze and sniffle, let’s take a look at the difference between the flu and COVID-19, because THERE IS a distinction.

The flu is caused by influenza viruses A and B. 

When kids are hit with the flu, they get hard – the onset is usually quick and disruptive. On average, the flu lasts 3 or 4 days, but it can take up to a full week for your child to start feeling like themselves again. Unlike the common cold, which is more confined to sniffles and runny noses, the flu will be accompanied by chills and a fever. If your child is less than 3 months old and has a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, call your child’s pediatrician immediately. Likewise, for older kids, if you ever notice a fever above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, call the pediatrician immediately. 

Other symptoms of a flu may include:

  • Body aches 
  • Sore throat 
  • Headache
  • Unusual tiredness
  • A worsening cough 
  • Nausea and or vomiting
  • Diarrhea 

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is caused by SARS-CoV-2, a new type of coronavirus.

Unlike the flu which starts abruptly and elevates quickly (within 1 to 4 days), COVID typically begins slowly with mild symptoms that can start 2 to 14 days after being exposed to the virus. 

Other symptoms of COVID for children include: 

  • Fever (over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and chills
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat 
  • Loss of smell or taste 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose or nasal congestion 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Body or muscle aches 
  • Headache
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Tummy ache  
  • Poor appetite 

These symptoms are indeed very similar to the flu, but with COVID from what we know so far, one of the strongest distinguishing symptoms is the loss of smell and taste. Also, coughing is likely to be intense and uncontrollable – more than what is usually experienced with a cold or flu. For an overview on COVID symptoms, the CDC prepared this helpful video.

Get tested! 

Please remember these are just guidelines from CDC and only a medical professional with access to diagnostic technology can truly determine if your child has the flu or COVID-19. When in doubt, contact your doctor or your child’s pediatrician. To find COVID testing in your area, click here

Stay Safe, Stay Home, Mask Up!

The best way to avoid COVID is… of course… to stay home. If you can’t stay home, always, ALWAYS wear a mask when you are out and remember that a mask does not replace social distancing. Check out the CDC’s recently updated their mask recommendations.

Wishing everyone a safe, socially distant, but still festive holiday season!


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