How COVID-19 Related Fever is Different From Common Flu, According to a Doctor

If a sneeze or cough is sending you into a tizzy fearing the worst, here's help. Dr Sandeep Patil of Fortis Hospital shares how you can tell the common flu apart from the Coronavirus-related sickness. 

Whether you have caught the seasonal flu or have been feeling sick after coming in contact with an infected person, every onset of fever should be investigated during a pandemic. Dr Sandip Patil, chief intensivist and physician at Fortis Hospital, Kalyan agrees. He says, "As some of the symptoms are similar between Flu and COVID-19, it could be hard to tell the difference based on symptoms alone; hence, testing is required to confirm the diagnosis. So, these fevers must be investigated and timely treatment must be sought. Understanding of medical history and evaluations will help in differentiating the cause of fever and decide on the treatment process."

How COVID-19 Related Fever is Different From Common Flu, According to a Doctor

What's the difference between Influenza (Flu) and fever related to COVID-19?

Dr Patil says, "While both are contagious illnesses of the respiratory tract, Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by the infection of a novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) whereas, the flu is caused by the Influenza viruses."

He adds that since some of the symptoms are similar between the flu and COVID-19, it could be hard to tell the difference based on symptoms alone. "Testing is required to confirm diagnosis. While characteristics are similar, there are key differences between the two and more is being learned every new day."

Similarities between the two flus

The COVID-19 and Flu may have varying degrees of signs and symptoms; from no symptoms (being asymptomatic) to showcasing severe symptoms. The common signs of both illnesses are onset of fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, sore throat and runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, headache and vomiting or diarrhoea (though this is more common in children than adults).

The differences....

- The Flu virus may cause mild to severe illness, comprising the signs and symptoms listed above - Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 those different from flu may include loss of taste or smell

Who's at risk?

"COVID-19 and flu can cause severe illness and complications. People at a higher risk include older adults, people with certain underlying medical conditions and pregnant women. For healthy children, the risk of complications is higher in Flu as opposed to COVID-19. For infants and children with underlying medical conditions, there is grave risk of being infected with Flu and COVID-19."

He also adds that young children are at higher risk of severe illness from flu while school-aged children infected with COVID-19 are at higher risk of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a rare but severe complication of COVID-19.

Things can get complicated...

"Many who get the Flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks. However, some may develop complications. Additional complications associated with COVID-19 may cause blood clotting in the veins or arteries of the heart, lungs, legs or brain. Some complications include respiratory failure, sepsis, heart attack or stroke, multi-organ failure or secondary bacterial infections (superadded bacterial infections along with flu /covid 19 for the second time).

How can it be treated?

"For those at a high-risk of complications or those hospitalized for either COVID-19 or Flu should receive supportive medical care to help relieve symptoms and complications if any. Influenza antiviral drugs such as Oseltamavir are FDA-approved to treat Flu, and are prescribed as per the course is advised by a doctor. For COVID-19, treatment guidelines have been developed by The National Institute of Health (NIH) & Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)."

"Remdesivir, an antiviral agent is being explored as a treatment for COVID-19 and is available under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), whereas experts use Favipiravir for mild cases. There are currently no drugs or other therapeutics approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent or treat COVID-19, studies are in progress to learn more."