how to tell the difference between symptoms of Covid-19

With its debilitating symptoms of aches, shivers and a pounding headache, a nasty bout of flu

With its debilitating symptoms of aches, shivers and a pounding headache, a nasty bout of flu can leave even the toughest of us bedridden for several days. But while that used to be the only infectious virus to dread each year, now we have coronavirus to contend with, too. And by the looks of things, both viruses could make an unwelcome appearance this winter. 

In August, it was revealed that “on the spot” swab DNA tests that can distinguish between Covid-19 and other seasonal illnesses – such as the flu – will be rolled out in care homes, schools and laboratories from next week. The health secretary Matt Hancock has said this move will be “hugely beneficial” over the winter months.

Experts are in agreement that chilly temperatures raise the risk of respiratory infections, heart attacks, strokes, and now, Covid-19. A study undertaken in July by researchers at Kings College London found that the virus is more severe in colder months than warmer ones, and that dry indoor air may encourage its spread. 

With both illnesses sharing many of the same symptoms, but differing in severity, how can we spot the difference between the two? 

When is flu season?

According to Bupa UK, people usually get seasonal flu between December and March, when the temperature begins to significantly drop. However, outbreaks can happen as early as October and late May. 

The annual outbreak of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) generally occurs even earlier than the flu, in October or November. This causes mild colds in people of all ages, but sometimes severe lung infections in the youngest and oldest among us.

What are the similarities between flu and Covid-19?

Both the flu and Covid-19 are contagious respiratory illnesses, and experts warn that their symptoms can be virtually indistinguishable. 

While the main symptoms of coronavirus are a continuous cough and a high temperature, in recent months this has been widened to include a loss of taste and smell, a sore throat and chills, to name a few. Alongside this, a growing number of people have reported unusual symptoms, from post-viral fatigue to stomach pains. Even the loss of taste and smell isn’t unique to Covid.

“There’s a spectrum of different symptoms you can get with respiratory viruses. You really really cant tell which virus it is unless you get a PCR test,” says Professor Peter Openshaw, a Professor of Experimental Medicine at Imperial College London. “Both flu and Covid-19 cause malaise, fatigue, fever and shivering.”

What’s even more confusing is that both illnesses can present as asymptomatic, meaning you could be spreading the virus without even knowing. A 2014 study carried out by Flu Watch found that 77 per cent of flu infections have no symptoms. Meanwhile, a study published in the Nature journal found that over 40 per cent of coronavirus cases are asymptomatic. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, muscle pain and body aches and a headache can all be symptoms of coronavirus and the flu. Some people report vomiting and diarrhea, but this is thought to be more common in children than adults. 

The two could be similar in terms of transmission, too. According to the CDC, both Covid-19 and flu are spread through aerosol droplets that are made when people cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouth or noses of people nearby, and possibly be inhaled into the lungs. 

However, Prof Openshaw warns that we can’t “assume that what we know about transmission of influenza automatically applies to Covid.

“Influenza tends to be more of a lung infection. It also replicates in the nose, but isn’t found so much in saliva and in spittle, so that may be a difference” he says. “Coronavirus also causes blood clotting effects, which are not seen in the flu.”

The only way to know for certain whether you have coronavirus is by receiving a diagnostic test. 

In depth: Coronavirus symptoms and how to spot the signs

Source Article