Because we are in the midst of flu season and the rapid spread of COVID-19 is showing no signs of waning, many people are preoccupied with finding ways to differentiate between the two viruses. As the two share many similar symptoms, it can be difficult for the inexperienced eye to identify them. Keep reading to learn more how to tell the difference between coronavirus symptoms vs flu symptoms!

coronavirus symptoms

What is the Novel Coronavirus?

Generally speaking, there are many types of coronaviruses; the newly identified coronavirus is known as COVID-19. This virus presents itself in patients with varying degrees of severity, with some carriers remaining asymptomatic for most or all of their infectious period. However, the virus may still be very deadly to some, especially those with pre-existing respiratory or immunocompromised conditions. 

how COVID-19 spreads

How is COVID-19 Spread?

It is widely accepted that the coronavirus is most commonly spread by droplets that are released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets may land onto surfaces, contaminating hands, food, and objects. 

difference between COVID-19 and flu

How to Tell the Difference in Coronavirus Symptoms vs Flu Symptoms

The coronavirus and the flu are both respiratory illnesses and share many common symptoms, but there are some factors to help differentiate the two: 


Because the flu and coronavirus both affect the respiratory system, there are many common symptoms that one might experience if they were infected with either virus. Shared symptoms include: 

  • Fever
  • Chills 
  • Cough 
  • Headache 
  • Sore throat 
  • Stuffy/ runny nose
  • Body aches 
  • Fatigue 


The only true way to differentiate between COVID-19 and the flu is by having a test performed, but if that isn’t possible, these tips may help you to discern which virus the symptoms belong to. 

Symptom Onset and Longevity: 

  • Flu symptoms typically present sooner than COVID-19 
  • A person with COVID-19 may take longer to develop symptoms
  • Some people infected with COVID-19 present no symptoms
  • The flu typically lasts for only 7 days 
  • Coronavirus patients may experience symptoms for 14 days or more 

Symptom Severity:

  • Those with the novel coronavirus are likely to have more severe symptoms
  • Flu patients experience the worst symptoms on days 2-4
  • COVID-19 patients experience the worst symptoms on days 5-10

Contagious Period:

  • Both can be spread up to one day before experiencing symptoms
  • People with COVID-19 may be contagious for a longer period of time

Unique COVID-19 Symptoms & Complications:

  • Loss of taste or smell
  • More contagious and easily spread
  • Shortness of breath
  • Higher mortality rate
  • Blood clots in veins & arteries in the lungs, heart, legs, or brain
  • Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children 

Another way to know whether or not you have the novel coronavirus is by preemptively getting the flu vaccine. While the flu vaccine is not necessarily 100% effective at preventing the flu, it does greatly minimize your chances of catching it. And the more protected against the flu you are, the more likely that the illness you are experiencing is coronavirus or another respiratory virus. 

how to protect yourself from COVID-19

How to Protect Yourself from COVID-19 

Here are a few things that the World Health Organization recommends you do to help stop the spread and protect yourself from COVID-19:

  • Wash Your Hands Frequently 
    • This is something you should be doing anyways, but washing your hands is a good first line of defense against both the flu and COVID-19. By washing your hands often with soap and water, you rinse germs down the drain and minimize the risk of contracting the virus from surfaces. Washing your hands is even more effective than hand sanitizer because it removes more germs. Make sure to wash your hands correctly to maximize the benefits!
  • Stay Home or Avoid Crowds 
    • For the average person, it’s almost impossible to expect one to stay home all day. But by simply avoiding large crowds and gatherings whenever possible, you significantly lower the likelihood that you will catch the virus.  
  • Practice Social Distancing 
    • Because the droplets that cause coronavirus fall to the ground within a few moments of being released, social-distancing is actually a great way to avoid catching and spreading the virus. Maintaining the recommended 6 ft of distance from others is a great way to protect yourself and others. 
  • Avoid Touching Your Face
    • To prevent yourself from contracting the virus while out in public, make sure that you aren’t touching your face at all until you have had the opportunity to wash your hands. This stops you from allowing the virus to enter your body through your eyes, nose, mouth, or ears.
get tested for COVID-19

Get Tested Today – Coronavirus and Flu

Luckily, there are many options available for a COVID-19 test. But all testing locations are not created equal. Although some places have free or extremely low-cost testing, you may not be getting all the information that you need to stay safe. At Village Emergency Centers, our expert team of doctors will provide you with additional information and answer any questions that you may have. We work hard to remain up-to-date on the latest COVID-19 developments.

If you are experiencing extreme symptoms like loss of breath, it’s essential that you get tested and seek treatment immediately. Call or visit us today for all your emergency needs, or if you simply have more questions about coronavirus symptoms vs flu symptoms.