Last Updated: February 2, 2021

The Flu vs. COVID-19

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During this flu season, many are left wondering if the flu-like symptoms they have are actually from the flu or from COVID-19. While there are quite a few overlapping symptoms, there are some key differences as well.

In either scenario it is always best to self-isolate, take some time off work, and distance yourself from others so that they do not get sick, too. In today’s post, we will be discussing the major similarities and differences between flu and COVID-19 symptoms, how they spread, the correlated complications, as well as how to seek treatment for both via telemedicine.

Key Similarities


 Influenza and COVID-19 have a handful of similar qualities and symptoms. For one, the flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses but are caused by different viruses. Additionally, there are a few similar symptoms between these two viruses:

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Cough and/or sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headache or migraine
  • Muscle pain and body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

As goes for both the flu and COVID-19, some people may be asymptomatic and experience no symptoms at all. However, this tends to be more common with the latter, as symptoms seem to take longer to develop, which is one of the reasons why it has spread so rapidly. It’s possible that you could contract either virus and not experience any symptoms, or more commonly, not develop any symptoms for a few days, even weeks.

How It Spreads

The flu and COVID-19 are spread in very similar ways. Both can be spread from person-to-person via close contact or tiny droplets of bodily fluids from coughing, sneezing, or talking. This is why even before the COVID-19 virus, during flu season, everybody is reminded to wash their hands along with other cautionary actions that prevent viruses from spreading, such as staying home from work or school if you are or could be sick.


Both the flu and COVID-19 can result in a variety of complications. Most commonly, these complications are linked to respiratory problems, including pneumonia and even respiratory failure. Other complications include sepsis, heart attack and/or stroke, organ failure, and internal inflammation.SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT

Key Differences


Although they may seem similar at a glance, the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 can be differentiated in a few ways. First off, aside from people who are asymptomatic, the symptoms of COVID-19 tend to be more severe than compared to the flu. The number one symptom that is a tell-tale sign you may have COVID-19 is a change in or the loss of taste and/or smell. However, if you do contract the virus, you could experience flu-like symptoms for the first few days until you notice your smell and taste have been affected. 

How It Spreads

While both are contagious viruses that are spread in similar ways, the COVID-19 virus tends to be more contagious than compared to the flu, especially among certain age groups and people with preexisting conditions. In fact, COVID-19 spreads so quickly that it is considered to be a “superspreader,” due to many people not experiencing symptoms for weeks or not at all and passing the virus on without realizing it. The people that are considered at high-risk for the flu are younger children, while older people are more at risk for contracting COVID-19 and experiencing complications.


As we mentioned, both the flu and COVID-19 tend to lead to respiratory complications, However, the difference between these two viruses in terms of these complications is the length of time that they last. For people who have the flu, they will likely recover from their symptoms in a few days to a week. Fewer people develop serious complications from the flu than compared to COVID-19. On the other hand, people who have contracted the COVID-19 virus could experience more serious complications that could last weeks or months and could, unfortunately, result in death.SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT

Get Tested for the Flu and COVID-19 with DocReady!

 Without having to leave the comfort of your own home, you can get tested for the flu and COVID-19 via the convenience of telemedicine. At DocReady, we offer telemedicine, or virtual healthcare, visits from our board-certified doctors. We can diagnose and treat a variety of conditions and offer appointments for primary care, urgent care, men’s healthcare, women’s healthcare, and mental health. During an online, virtual visit with your doctor at DocReady, your doctor can order you a test to determine if you have the flu or COVID-19, as well as help you with treatments including prescribing medications. Plus, our telemedicine services start at just $39 per visit, require no insurance whatsoever, and are more accessible than traditional doctor visits. Book a single appointment at DocReady, or sign up for one of our affordable subscription plans to get your tests ordered today!

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