This year, influenza season and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are going to overlap. This adds an additional layer of concern for many of our patients. Learn more about symptoms and treatment for both illnesses:
Symptoms and spread
While caused by two different viruses, influenza (sometimes called the flu) and COVID-19 are both infectious respiratory illnesses.
Both can pass from person to person through tiny droplets that are spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. That’s why it’s extra important to wear a face mask right now, to help slow the spread of both illnesses.
They have some symptoms in common: fever, cough, body aches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and/or diarrhea. COVID-19 frequently comes with shortness of breath, where influenza more frequently brings body aches and headaches – however, these symptoms can occur in either illness. Loss of taste and smell appears to be particularly prevalent in patients with COVID-19. See how the symptoms compare between COVID-19, influenza, colds and allergies:
With many shared symptoms, it can be hard to determine which illness you may have if you become sick. In mild cases of COVID-19 or influenza, the general treatment plan remains the same:
- Stay home to avoid spreading the illness further.
- Call your doctor or seek virtual treatment through a telemedicine visit, such as Online Quick Care.
- Your provider diagnoses your illness and might prescribe medication to help treat your symptoms. Some cases of influenza can be treated with an antiviral medication to help you feel better faster - such treatment is not yet available for COVID-19.
- Your provider gives information about when you’ll be safe to return to work or activities and explains which symptoms might need more advanced treatment.
Both influenza and COVID-19 can be serious in some cases, requiring advanced care and possibly hospitalization. In an emergency, always call 911 or go to an emergency department.
There is not a vaccine available yet for COVID-19. The seasonal influenza vaccine is widely available this year and helps prevent influenza, along with helping to reduce the severity of illness for those who do get influenza.
It’s important to get an influenza shot this year to help protect yourself and those around you. Lake Health offers several convenient and safe ways for our patients to get the seasonal influenza vaccine.
Help protect yourself and others by washing your hands, wearing a mask, keeping 6 feet apart from others outside your household and staying home when sick.
For more information, visit the Lake Health COVID-19 update page.