Skip to main content

Making Sense of Symptoms: Is It COVID-19, the Flu, or a Bad Cold?

Making Sense of Symptoms: Is It COVID-19, the Flu, or a Bad Cold?

’Tis the season — for sickness to go around. It’s right in the thick of flu season. Add the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the common cold into the mix, and it’s a recipe for some sick days. The question, though, is: How do you know which illness you have?

Because all three of these conditions have some similar symptoms, you face a challenge trying to figure out which one is affecting you or your kids. Fortunately, the team at SmartClinic Urgent Care in West Covina and Santa Clarita, California, can help. 

You can use our urgent care services, including pediatric care, to find out what’s making your family sick. We can accurately diagnose whether it’s the flu, a cold, or COVID-19. To help you have a better understanding of what you’re dealing with while you’re still at home, though, you can check for specific symptoms with this helpful guide. 

Ruling out a cold

To determine whether you might be dealing with a cold, first check for headaches. While headaches are a common symptom of the flu and COVID-19, people rarely get them when they have a cold. 

Next, look to your stomach. While the flu and COVID-19 can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, the cold doesn’t cause these symptoms. Gastrointestinal symptoms are especially common in kids who have the flu.

So if you’re noticing a runny or stuffed nose, congestion, cough, sneezing, and sore throat but without headaches or gastrointestinal issues, it’s probably a cold.

The flu vs. COVID-19

Determining which one of these two viral infections you have gets tricky because they share a lot of the same symptoms. Here, you have two good guidelines you can use:

The timeline

COVID-19 takes longer to incubate than influenza. If you know when you were exposed to a sick person, you might be able to tell the difference by tracking how long it takes you to feel bad. You usually notice flu symptoms within a few days, while COVID-19 symptoms can take five days to show up. 

Taste and smell

One of the hallmark symptoms of COVID-19 is a loss of taste and smell. Influenza doesn’t cause these symptoms, so if you’re struggling to smell or taste, you’ve probably got COVID. 

Finding out for sure

Because all three of these conditions share symptoms — and because they’re all so common, especially this time of year — it gets challenging to know for sure which you have, at least while you’re at home. Fortunately, we can help there.

We offer COVID-19 testing at both of our offices so you can know for sure whether or not you have a coronavirus infection. Similarly, we offer on-site rapid influenza testing. After taking a nasal swab, we can tell you if you have the flu in 20 minutes. 

Once we know what illness you have, we tailor a treatment plan to help you feel better and get healthy as quickly as possible. 

To find out if you’re dealing with the flu, COVID-19, or a bad cold, walk in or call SmartClinic Urgent Care at either location.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Can I Beat My Illness Without an Antibiotic?

Some illnesses require an antibiotic, while others don’t improve even if you take this medication. To help you find out if you should seek out an antibiotic, we built a quick guide.