Even as COVID-19 continues to persist, flu and cold season is also underway.
And, yes, COVID-19 and flu are different viruses, which means you can get them at the same time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“There is such an overlap between COVID-19, flu and even allergies it can be almost impossible to distinguish between them clinically without testing,” said David Basel, MD, Vice President of Avera Medical Group Quality.
There are two differences to consider:
- Loss of taste and smell are classic symptoms of COVID-19 not seen in many other illnesses. If you lose these senses, it’s important to isolate and get tested.
- Flu symptoms typically come on faster and include achiness, chills and fever. It’s still important to isolate and seek testing.
Both COVID-19 and flu can result in serious illness and even hospitalization. If you get sick with both, it could increase your risk of having serious symptoms, Basel said.
What’s more, getting infected by one will weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to get the other.
What if I Have Flu and COVID-19?
The only way to know for sure is to get tested. After discussing symptoms with your provider, he or she will recommend if testing for both is recommended.
There is a test that recently received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration and tests for four illnesses at once: influenza A, influenza B, RSV and COVID-19. Talk to your insurance provider about coverage if this test is recommended. Avera Health Plans covers this with no out-of-pocket cost.
Besides that, Basel said it’s important to follow the normal rules for COVID-19: stay home.
“Stop what you’re doing, do not go to work, do not go to school and isolate yourself,” Basel said.
How Do I Avoid Getting Both?
The best defense against the flu is to get a vaccine every year, Basel said. They are also the best defense for COVID-19. Wearing a mask, washing hands frequently and social distancing can also help stop the spread of COVID-19 and the flu.
If you have questions about the flu, talk with your regular provider.