COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than the 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. 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. Both influenza and COVID-19 can be transmitted in the same ways and both can present in the same ways. They share many similarities, but many differences as well.

The most prominent symptoms that COVID-19 and the flu have in common include:

  • Fever (of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Muscle pain and body aches
  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness or lack of energy) and weakness
  • Nausea or vomiting (more common in children than adults)
  • Diarrhea (more common in children and adults)

Because symptoms are so similar – and can vary from person to person – the only way to confirm whether it’s COVID-19 or influenza is through testing. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t delay getting care.

let’s look at how COVID-19 and flu symptoms are different

  • Symptom onset – The flu comes on suddenly. Usually, flu symptoms appear anywhere from one to four days after infection. COVID-19 symptoms can be more gradual. While COVID-19 symptoms can develop as early as two days after you’re infected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says five days after infection is typical. Plus, it’s possible to be infected with COVID-19 but not show any symptoms for up to 14 days.
  • Cough type and severity – The flu usually causes a mild, dry cough, whereas COVID-19 cough symptoms are more severe. When you have COVID-19, coughs are usually dry, persistent, and can leave you short of breath.

One of the main differences in common cold symptoms compared to COVID-19 or the flu is the type of cough. Usually, cold coughs produce phlegm or mucus, not a dry cough like COVID-19 or the flu.

Besides, symptoms like fever, muscle aches, and extreme fatigue are pretty uncommon when you have a cold. You may get a little sore or feel a little more tired, but it’s much milder and goes away more quickly.