One of the reasons people tend to compare Covid-19 to influenza (flu) is that the two conditions exhibit almost identical symptoms in the early phase of the disease. As Covid-19 progresses, or becomes more serious, it becomes clear that it is not influenza. The trick is to get medical attention before it reaches that stage and that is why recognizing early symptoms can be vital, particularly if you are in an at-risk group.
Please don’t expect your doctor to be able to give you a once over and tell you if you do in fact have Covid-19 or not. It isn’t that simple. The symptoms are easy to confuse with a range of other conditions that share similar symptoms and that’s why your doctor will request a Covid-19 test for you. That will tell if you are in fact Covid-19 positive. You may even require a second test to confirm the results of the first one. It pays to be sure, as this will determine the treatment you receive.
So how and when should you seek help from a doctor, given that it is flu season right now in America. How do you know you dont simply have seasonal flu? You dont, is the easy answer, and thats why at-risk groups and you, if you experience certain symptoms we’ll discuss below, should seek immediate medical attention.
DONT LEAVE IT TILL THE LAST MINUTE. With Covid-19, delaying treatment can cost you your life if the disease progresses in your body.
What symptoms do I need to be on the lookout for?
The CDC lists a number of symptoms that you may begin to experience within 24 hours of contracting the coronavirus. These symptoms may indicate you are developing Covid-19.
- Fever or chills ( Call your doctor if your temperature is 103 F (39.4 C) or higher)
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
So now you see the problem. These symptoms are almost identical to influenza symptoms and you will need to make a judgement call in terms of how you feel and how rapidly your condition deteriorates. Don’t wait until you are experiencing respiratory trouble (struggling to breathe), rather get in touch with your doctor or healthcare provider sooner.
We can offer you two tools to assess yourself at home, the one is called Isabel and is a DDX (Differential Diagnostic) tool used by doctors to check symptoms, the other is from the CDC website. Both are free and easy to use and you could even consider trying both. Please understand these tools are only as reliable as the data you input and shouldn’t be considered a substitute for medical opinion. There are merely helpful tools.
Isabel is integrated on the Medika site, you can find the diagnosis page here and the CDC symptom checker is embedded below for both English and Spanish users.
When to seek emergency medical attention
Look for emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility: Always tell the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19. It’s far better to call ahead so you can be given instructions about visitor protocols for suspected infections and this ensures you receive prompt and proper care on arrival.
What is the difference between Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19?
Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2), and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.
COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people. It can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer. More information about differences between flu and COVID-19 is available in the different sections below.
Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.