By Theresa Fullenkamp, DNP
The winter season is upon us, and unfortunately the colder weather brings with it an increase in respiratory infections. Although getting tested is the only real way to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu, it’s important to be able to recognize their similarities and differences.
In many ways, COVID-19 and the flu are similar. Though caused by different viruses, both affect your lungs and breathing. Both can also cause fever, cough, shortness of breath, headache, sore throat, body aches and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Both can also range from being asymptomatic to fatal.
COVID-19 and the flu are both spread the same way. Droplets from an infected person can spread from a person’s mouth or nose and linger in the air until another person inhales them. Both viruses can also spread when a person touches a surface with viruses on it and transfers the germs by touching his or her face. Unfortunately, both viruses can also be spread by infected people before they even realize they are sick.
One major difference between COVID-19 and the flu is that COVID-19 often causes a person to suddenly lose his or her sense of smell or taste. This isn’t as common with the flu. The other main symptoms with COVID-19 include a high temperature and continuous cough. COVID-19 also appears to spread more quickly than the flu, and its mortality rate is higher.
While flu symptoms typically resolve after three to seven days, the symptoms of COVID-19 generally last closer to two weeks. Some people will even experience certain COVID-19 symptoms for months. These include fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, trouble concentrating, a fast heartbeat, depression and a loss of taste or smell.
As a healthcare provider in our community, I tell my patients the best protection against COVID-19 and the flu is to get vaccinated. For optimal protection, be sure to vaccinate against both viruses as just one of the vaccines won’t protect you from both. I also recommend you get boosted if you’re eligible. Vaccines are available at Margaret Mary’s Occupational Health and Wellness Center located across from Kroger in Batesville. For an appointment, call 812.932.5105.
Finally, you’ve heard it before, but it’s important to remember to always follow traditional safety measures. Stay home if you’re not feeling well, wear a mask in large crowds, maintain social distancing and wash your hands frequently. Additionally, we encourage people to continue with or adopt the basics of a healthy lifestyle including eating a balanced, nutritious diet, exercising at least 30 minutes a day, getting plenty of sleep each night and taking the daily vitamins and supplements recommended by your primary care provider.