Flu or COVID-19: What do I have? Top FAQs and Guidelines

It’s fall and the temperature is in that weird flux between hot and cooler weather where those cold and flu symptoms are popping up…nose running…sneezing, all the good stuff. But nowadays the question isn’t: do I have a cold or the flu? Now we’re asking ourselves: is this the flu or COVID-19? 

Here we’ve compiled all the frequently asked questions as well as the facts regarding the similarities and differences between the flu and COVID-19.



  • The flu and COVID-19 are both upper respiratory diseases that are transmitted through contact with a person and an infected person’s particles that contain the virus.
  • It is transmitted to another through the infected person’s particles spread by coughing, sneezing or talking. 
  • They are both mostly spread through inhalation, but a person can also be infected by touching something with virus particles on it then touching their own eyes, nose or mouth.
  • For both COVID-19 and the flu it’s possible to spread the virus before experiencing symptoms.
  • Both COVID-19 and the flu can spread from animals to humans and vice versa.

*While symptoms alone cannot help you fully determine if you have covid or the flu, here is a chart to help you understand the similarities and differences between Influenza and COVID-19 symptoms.



Flu vs COVID Symptoms FB



  • A person with the flu can experience symptoms 1-4 days after infection.
  • Those infected with influenza are most contagious in the first 3-4 days.
  • The flu has been traced to Influenza A or Influenza B virus.
  • Influenza mainly affects any age of persons with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women and children younger than 5. 
  • Children are less likely to get COVID.
  • The Flu has more cases with itchy watery eyes and sneezing (less common in COVID cases).


  • A person with COVID-19 may show symptoms 2-14 days after infection.
  • Those infected with COVID-19 are most contagious 1-2 days before they feel sick/show symptoms.
  • COVID has been traced to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • COVID has more serious complications for older adults and those with heart/lung disease or diabetes.
  • COVID has been reported to have more congestion or runny nose, loss of taste/smell, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing.


Since COVID, Influenza, and other respiratory illnesses are similar, determining the cause of illness cannot be based on symptoms alone-testing must be done.

When to seek emergency medical condition:

  • If you experience trouble breathing
  • If you experience pain or pressure in your chest
  • If you experience new confusion
  • If you experience the inability to wake/stay awake
  • If you experience pale/gray/and or blue colored skin, lips, or nail beds



  • Quarantine when you might have been exposed to the virus. 
  • The CDC recommends close contact to be someone within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more with someone who has covid unless you have been fully vaccinated. 
  • People do not need to quarantine after contact if they’re fully vaccinated and not showing symptoms of covid. 
  • The CDC also recommends getting tested 3-5 days after exposure and wearing a mask in public for 14 days following exposure or until they receive a negative test. 


  • Isolate when you have been infected with the virus. 
  • Isolation is used to separate people who have covid from those who do not. 
  • People in isolation should stay home and separate from others within the home (stay in separate rooms, use separate bathrooms, avoid contact with others and pets, don’t share household items, wear a mask when around others).


  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • The World Health Organization (WHO)
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
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