We've all been there. The first thought when we get a little tickle in our throat is if we've contracted COVID. But it could just be the common cold or flu. How can you tell the difference?

There are some key differences between flu and COVID-19. COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people, according to the CDC. It can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer.

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. Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, but there are some key differences between the two.


Fever or feeling feverish/chills
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Fatigue (tiredness)
Sore throat
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle pain or body aches
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

Both COVID-19 and flu last 1 or more days can pass between a person becoming infected.


Flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, including common signs and symptoms listed above.

COVID-19 seems to cause more serious illnesses in some people. Other signs and symptoms of COVID-19, different from flu, may include change in or loss of taste or smell.

If a person has COVID-19, it could take them longer to develop symptoms than if they had flu. Typically, a person develops symptoms anywhere from 1 to 4 days after infection if they have the flu. COVID symptoms take 5 days t develop after being infected, but symptoms can appear as early as 2 days or as late as 14 days.

For both COVID-19 and flu, it’s possible to spread the virus for at least 1 day before experiencing any symptoms. If a person has COVID-19, they may be contagious for a longer period of time than if they had flu.

For more information on identifying the differences between COVID and the flu, visit CDC.gov.

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