As we embark on a new season that may include some level of in-person schooling and a tad bit more social interaction (while maintaining social distancing), there are various illnesses that pop up as the fall time norm, from the common cold to the flu, it is imperative to know the symptoms and differences between the standard seasonal flu and COVID-19. Although the strain of the flu will change year to year, the symptoms and treatment are relatively the same. Because COVID-19 is a newly developing virus, it is important for us to compare and contrast the two so that you can take the appropriate steps, as a parent, to protect and care for your children.
What is the difference between the flu and COVID-19?
Both the flu and COVID-19 are contagious and transmissible respiratory infections that can cause acute to severe symptoms and outcomes. The flu comes from an influenza virus, while COVID-19 is part of the Coronavirus, SARS grouping. COVID-19 is much more contagious than the flu and can spread more easily from one individual to another. COVID-19 is also more lethal than the flu when comparing infection to mortality rates. Some of the key differences between the two are the amount of time someone begins showing symptoms, length of contagious period and the overall amount of information we have on the flu versus what is still unfolding about COVID-19.
What are the signs and symptoms of the flu as compared to COVID-19?
The most common symptoms of both the flu and COVID-19 are similar. Both can be asymptomatic, meaning that you have the virus, but are symptom-free.
Symptoms of both viruses can include:
· Sore Throat
· Running Nose or Congestion
· Shortness of Breath
· Muscle pain
· Extreme fatigue
· Stomach issues, such as nausea or diarrhea which are most common in children.
The biggest differentiating symptom for those with COVID-19 is the sudden lack of taste or smell. Note that this symptom does not show up in every individual with COVID-19 so testing may be the only way to rule out COVID-19 versus the flu. Note that when comparing the two, COVID-19 causes more serious symptoms than the flu in most cases. Cases, for children, have been relatively mild when compared to adult counterparts.
How soon after infection do symptoms appear?
Symptoms tend to take longer for those who have COVID-19. For the flu, symptoms usually occur within 1 to 4 days of infection. For COVID-19, the average day for symptoms to begin is on day 5. People who are infected with COVID-19 may begin to experience symptoms as soon as 1 day after and up to 14 days after exposure and infection.
What treatment is available for both illnesses?
Currently there are no direct treatment options to completely rid yourself of COVID-19 once infected. To avoid exposing others to the virus, a 14-day quarantine is required, along with a negative COVID-19 test post-symptomatic to confirm you no longer test positive for the virus in your body. For the flu, there are FDA-approved medications to treat the flu. In both instances it is recommended to rest at home with adequate fluid intake and OTC medications to alleviate symptoms. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required to provide necessary treatment options to control symptoms and complications.
Is there a vaccine available for either?
At this time there is no FDA-approved vaccine for COVID-19, but vaccine development companies are currently expediting the process to produce one rapidly in hopes to slow the spread. There are approved vaccines for the flu which are recommended each year.
As we navigate through a season that will include both the flu and COVID-19, amongst other illnesses, it is important to stay informed on the signs and symptoms to keep your family safe. If you, or your child, is experiencing any symptoms of either COVID-19 or the flu, it is best to be tested so that the best course of action is taken on your journey to healing.