What’s the Difference Between COVID and FLU Symptoms?

Suzanne FiscelIa, PA-C, BCPA / September 8, 2022

Covid, Flu, and Cold Symptoms

You want to know the difference between COVID and FLU symptoms. Early detection can protect your loved ones from disaster. The key for you is to understand what the “incubation period” really means to your family.

But the flu season wouldn’t be complete without talking about cold symptoms and COVID. I found this CHEAT SHEET for you to keep handy for the next six months as we go through the cold, flu, and COVID season.

As I looked researched all the medical journals and news articles, I found a lot of discrepancies, so the chart that I’m giving you is the one that I found the most complete representation of what many of us see in medical practice.


A couple of things that I want you to note about the difference between COVID and FLU Symptoms.

First off, is the incubation. What does that really mean to you? And why is it important?

The person is not showing symptoms at this time, they are infected with the virus regardless of which virus it is. (COVID, FLU, and COLD are all viruses.) This means that most likely this virus is spreading at this time.


Let me give you an example.

Let’s say that Mary has been out with Judy. Judy now calls Mary and says I have COVID. Mary has been exposed. Was Judy contagious and maybe infected Mary?? Most likely the answer is yes. So if it is COVID and according to this chart, we have to wait 2-14 days to see if Mary starts to develop symptoms.

During this time. Mary is contagious and spreads the virus to other people. This is why we recommend upon exposure that somebody isolates and uses precautions.


What do I mean by “precautions”?

In the medical world, this is called “layering”.

What this means is that Mary should not only be vaccinated, but Mary should also do other things like wear a mask, wash her hands, clean surfaces she has touched, and stay 6 feet away from others. She should also let people know that she has been “exposed” and is in the “incubation” period.


Think about this over the holidays.  Judy was kind enough to inform Mary about her infection.  Will your family members do the same after family gatherings?

Let’s talk about that fever

Fever does not have to be high. So don’t look for a fever of over 102 to 105. These fevers can just run 99. And a lot of people say their normal temperature is below 98.6 so even when they have a 98 or 99, believe them. They are truly running a fever.

Another thing you want to note on this chart is that when you look at the COVID column, you will see that nothing there is “rare”.


Now let’s talk about “the headache”.

We see a lot of patients with COVID, saying, “Gosh, I have a headache. Where did that come from?”

They seem puzzled because they’re not necessarily tired, they got a good night’s sleep, they’re eating well, and they’re hydrated. They’re not even showing fatigue at this time. But they just have this “headache” and say, “I have a headache and don’t know why they have one.” That is common with COVID.


And let’s talk about the loss of smell…

This is different from the common cold where you have a stuffy nose because even with a stuffy nose you can sometimes smell or taste certain things. But with COVID it is like you’re wiped out entirely from any. All of a sudden this comes on. You go to bite into something. You go to smell something, and you literally cannot smell it were 5 minutes ago you could. That’s typical COVID.


And last but not least, The “Mack truck” feeling

If I had a dollar for every time a FLU-positive patient came in stating that they feel like they’ve been hit by a Mack truck, I’d be a wealthy woman. This is so common with the FLU, not COVID or a COLD. If you have been riddled with FLU, then you know every muscle aches and you feel like you are swimming through oatmeal with every move.


Get the difference between COVID and FLU symptoms

So let’s stay safe. And remember. To pull this chart out. When your friends and family call you this season and tell you they are positive for COVID, FLU, or the common cold, know your incubation periods and can now protect your senior and yourselves.


COVID symptoms form

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Suzanne FiscelIa, PA-C, BCPA

I know exactly what it's like to feel like you just can't keep up. Working a full-time job, raising 3 children as a single mom, and taking care of her aging mother. But after feeling lost, overwhelmed, and guilty for spreading herself too thin, I saw all her patients and their caregivers going through the same thing. I learned how to put simple systems in place to keep my life free from distractions, find free time to do the things I wanted, and enjoy my family along the way. These simple step-by-step solutions have been shared with my patients, friends, and family. They too have found organization, confidence, peace, and freedom. Now we all live the life we love while caregiving! Come join us!

Hi I'm Suzanne

And my mission is to find you practical easy-to-follow solutions for everyday caregiving. Find out more HERE.

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