Today, if you wake up with a headache, fever, sore throat, cough and body aches, you probably will spend significant time wondering if it is the flu or COVID. In the past, you may have spent a few minutes running down a list of people you’d been around who had the flu, but now you have to worry about exposure to COVID-19. As the threat of the new Omicron variant looms large, we have to be especially vigilant with ourselves and our children. So how do you know if it’s Influenza A or if it’s COVID? At Medco ER & Urgent Care in Plano, TX, our board-certified physicians are here to help you answer that dilemma.
“The difficulty is in the shared symptoms,” said Medco ER & Urgent Care’s Medical Director, Dr. Nasir Khan. “Both influenza and COVID can present with fever, chills, muscle soreness, and cough. Some people experience diarrhea and vomiting with either condition. So, short of getting tested, it is hard to know whether it’s flu or COVID.”
There are many similarities between flu and COVID-19, though the severity can vary. People may experience very mild cases of either condition, or they can experience severe cases and even need hospitalization. Either flu or COVID can result in secondary infections, such as pneumonia, and require advanced treatment.
Here’s a list of the common symptoms1 that can occur in either condition:
- Body aches
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
“One of the most prominent symptoms that may help you know the difference is the classic loss of the senses of taste and smell. Usually, that is a good way to realize you probably have COVID and should come in and get tested right away,” said Dr. Khan. “Additionally, if you have difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, that is another indicator of COVID, but it could also mean you’re moving into a chest condition with the flu. But that should be looked at right away by one of our qualified physicians.”
How it is spread
Both the flu and COVID are highly contagious, though they are caused by completely different viruses. They are both spread through contact with other people who are infected with the germs. Coughs and sneezes can transmit microscopic droplets laden with the virus, or even just talking can transmit the virus. When these droplets are inhaled or enter through the eyes or mouth, the virus then spreads to that person.2
Medco ER & Urgent Care is ready to help
If you are unsure if you have the flu or COVID, come to Medco ER & Urgent Care right away for a Rapid Antigen Test with one swipe swab. Results are ready in 15 minutes, so you will know right away if you have the flu or COVID. Not ready to come in? Try a telehealth visit and get fast advice from one of our board-certified physicians.
- Book a Rapid Antigen Test at Plano:
3960 Legacy Drive, Plano, TX 75023 (on the corner of Legacy and Coit Road)
Call us @ 469-392-4000
- Book a Rapid Antigen Test at Carrollton:
2745 E Belt Line Road, Carrollton, TX 75006
One of the most common illnesses we treat at Medco ER & Urgent Care is influenza (the flu). While it’s possible to contract the flu year-round, it’s more common to see an increase in those infected with the illness during the fall and winter. As we head into flu season, we believe it’s essential to be knowledgeable about the virus, its symptoms, and how to protect yourself from contracting and spreading the flu. These are the most frequently asked questions we often see regarding influenza.
What are the symptoms?
- Fever of over 100.4° F (38° C)
- Aching muscles
- Chills and sweats
- Dry, persistent cough
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nasal congestion
- Sore throat
How do I know if I have a cold or the flu?
While the symptoms of influenza and the common cold are very similar, those with a cold are less likely to experience a fever, chills, and headaches. Those suffering from a cold are more likely to experience gradual symptoms rather than the abrupt, more severe symptoms of the flu. If you think that you may have the flu, its important that you promptly see a doctor to help prevent the spread of the virus. After a physical, assessing your symptoms and performing tests, your doctor will be able to more accurately tell if you are suffering from a common cold or the flu and treat your condition properly.
How long will I be contagious?
After exposure to the influenza virus, it may take between 1 and 4 days for you to develop symptoms. If a healthy adult has contracted the virus, they will be the most contagious in the first three or four days of developing symptoms but can be contagious 1 day before the appearance of symptoms and up to 7 of being sick. Children and those with a compromised immune system may be contagious for longer than 7 days.
Can the flu be treated at home?
If you are only experiencing minor flu-like symptoms, it is possible to treat and soothe flu symptoms at home with over the counter medication. However, a physician has the ability to more accurately diagnose your condition and prescribe the appropriate antiviral or related prescription medication.
When should I see a doctor for the flu?
If you think that you are experiencing severe flu-like symptoms or are in a high-risk group such as children under the age of 12, those over the age of 65, and individuals with chronic illness or a compromised immune system, it is essential you are seen by a physician. High-risk groups are more likely to develop complications related to the flu, such as pneumonia, sinus infections, bronchitis, and in some rare cases, hospitalization or death. Even in healthy adults, flu-like symptoms are shared by many other, often life-threatening conditions that may require immediate attention, such as a heart attack.
When should I go to the ER for flu-like symptoms?
You should go to the nearest emergency room or seek emergency medical help if you are in a high-risk group or are experiencing:
- A fever of 103° F or higher
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath while at rest
- Pain or pressure in the chest
- Abdominal pain or pressure
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe vomiting
You should take your child to the emergency room or seek emergency medical help if they are experiencing:
- Any of the above symptoms
- Difficulty breathing or breathing fast
- A bluish tone to the skin
- A fever with a rash
- Limited liquid intake
What can I do to prevent the flu?
The best way to prevent contraction of the flu is to get a flu vaccination each year. Visit Medco ER & Urgent Care in Plano or Frisco, at any time 24/7 to have you and your family vaccinated before flu season begins.
Wash your hands:
To help protect yourself from getting sick or spread of the virus, regularly wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
Cover your mouth:
Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid those who are sick:
Avoid exposure to the virus by limiting close contact with those who are sick. If you are caring for someone who has the flu, its best to limit the number of people who have contact with the sick individual, keep surfaces around the home disinfected, and make sure that all who are in the home are following the flu prevention measures listed above.
If you’re sick stay home:
While sometimes the contraction of influenza is unavoidable, it is imperative to stay home if you to become sick. Unless you are going to see your doctor, it’s recommended that those who are infected with the flu avoid public spaces to reduce the spread of the virus.
Why do I need to get a flu shot every year?
The first line of defense against the flu is getting vaccinated, but unlike other illnesses, there are many different strains of the influenza virus. This constant change in the virus, coupled with the body’s natural decline in immunity over time, makes it essential to get a new flu vaccination each year before the flu season starts.
Can I contract the flu from a flu shot?
This is a common misconception. You cannot contract influenza from the flu vaccine. However, the flu vaccine does not work right away. It takes about two weeks for your body to develop the proper antibodies to protect against the flu. Therefore the CDC recommends vaccination before the flu begins to spread through your community.
If you think you or a loved one might have the flu come to see us at one of our locations in Plano or Frisco. Each Medco ER & Urgent Care facility is equipped to diagnose, test, and treat minor to severe flu-like symptoms and related conditions under one roof, 24 hours a day 7 days a week.