Know the difference: Flu Virus Vs Coronavirus


While we’ve enjoyed an incredibly successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine across the UK, it’s important to understand that the virus still exists. Experts warn that while vaccinations will help manage symptoms, they don’t make you completely immune from catching COVID-19, especially as more variants emerge.

One thing that can make dealing with COVID-19 more difficult is working out if that’s what you actually have. Coronavirus and the seasonal flu have many common symptoms such as fatigue, fever and a cough. So if you find yourself feeling under the weather, how do you work out what’s at the root?

At LycaHealth, we want to make things as easy and clear for you. Let’s take a look at some of the most common symptoms associated with Covid and flu so you can spot the differences.

Cup, tissues and glasses
Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema


COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus that can cause mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may take anywhere from 2-14 days to appear after you’ve actually caught the virus. 

Symptoms of Covid-19 

The most common symptoms of Covid-19 include: 

  • High temperature
  • New, continuous cough 
  • Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste 

Other symptoms include: 

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches

People with these COVID 19 symptoms should stay at home, even if the symptoms are mild, and order a home test kit.

Seasonal Flu 

Seasonal influenza, or the flu, symptoms appear quickly after infection. Like coronavirus, it’s a highly infectious respiratory infection caused by a virus that affects your nose, throat, and lungs. Symptoms generally last 5 to 7 days but in more severe cases, patients can need intensive care treatment and it can even result in death. 

Symptoms of the Flu 

The main symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever
  • Aching muscles 
  • Fatigue
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite

The main differences between the flu and Covid-19 

The flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they differ in the type of virus that causes them. The flu is caused by an influenza virus while COVID-19 is a coronavirus.

One key difference between the two is that COVID-19 usually causes shortness of breath whereas the flu doesn’t. However, in very serious cases of the flu where it has developed into pneumonia, shortness of breath can be a symptom. 

A symptom that many COVID-19 sufferers report is a loss of taste and smell, which isn’t a symptom of the flu.

You can also try to work out if you have COVID-19 or flu by looking at when you could have possibly been infected. With COVID-19 it will take about two to 14 days for symptoms to appear after exposure whereas with the flu they typically make an appearance around day four post-infection. 

How are covid-19 and the flu similar?

Both COVID-19 and flu can spread from person to person. The virus is primarily transmitted by large or small particles that are expelled when people with the infection cough, sneeze, or talk where they might land in your mouth or nose which could lead you to inhale them into your lungs if there’s not a well-ventilated environment nearby.

Although most spread is by inhalation, it may be possible that a person can get infected through contact with the virus. For example, if someone has an active case of the illness and shakes your hand or touches something in close proximity to you while they are still contagious then there’s always a chance for infection – even though not everyone who comes into contact with such cases will become sick themselves.

One of the most dangerous aspects to both flu and COVID-19 is that it can be spread by people before they show symptoms. It’s often hard for a person who doesn’t have any signs or symptoms (asymptomatic) to know if he or she has contracted either virus. 

How to prevent Covid-19 and the flu?

The best way to avoid the seasonal flu and covid-19, and to lessen its impact if you do catch either, is to get vaccinated. We offer the flu vaccine through our private GP service or corporate flu jabs which can take place at your place of work.

As well as vaccination, there are a number of small changes you can make to your day to day life. 

  • Avoid big events and large gatherings
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Wear a face mask when you’re in indoor public spaces and where there is a high risk of airborne transmission. Government guidance around face mask-wearing differs depending on whether you are fully vaccinated or unvaccinated.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze, this is often known as the vampire cough!
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth where possible.

By taking these precaution measures, you can help you stay safe and reduce your risk of contracting illnesses over the winter.

If you believe you have Covid-19 symptoms, it is crucial that you stay at home and get tested, even if your symptoms are mild. We offer a range of Covid-19 services including private Covid-19 testing. 

Still have queries? Get in touch with us and we’ll be more than happy to help.

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