4 News Now Q&A: Flu or COVID-19?

Your Questions Answered

Q: How can I tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19? 

A: We’ve slowed the spread of COVID-19. But now, health experts are worried about the virus mixing with the flu this winter.

We know both the flu and coronavirus spread through droplets from the nose and mouth. Both can spread before people even know they’re sick. With all of these similarities, many are wondering how to tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19.

It’s impossible to tell without a test.

COVID-19 and the seasonal flu have such similar symptoms, you may need to get tested to know what’s making you feel miserable.

Body aches, sore throat, fever, cough and shortness of breath are all symptoms shared by the two.

One big difference? People with the flu typically feel sickest during the first week of illness. With COVID-19, people may feel the worst during the second or third week, and they may remain sick for a longer period of time.

Another difference: COVID-19 is more likely than the flu to cause a loss of taste or smell. But not everyone experiences that symptom, so it’s not a reliable way to tell the viruses apart.

It’s also possible to be infected with both at the same time. A family doctor from MultiCare says some patients here in Spokane have found themselves in that exact situation.

“Combine them together and that overwhelming inflammation and organ damage and cardiovascular damage could really be a deadly combination,” said Dr. Gretchen LaSalle.

There may not be a COVID-19 vaccine out yet, but doctors say the best way to keep yourself healthy this winter is by getting a flu shot. It’s about 60 percent effective, and could protect you for about six months.

Experts say the best time for you to get that shot is between now and Halloween.

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