How to tell if your flu was actually COVID

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01/6COVID or the flu? How to tell your symptoms apart

With a sudden change in season and influx of viruses circulating right now, there's been a rampant rise in seasonal flu cases, just as we are beginning to worry a little less about COVID. What's also concerning is that this time around, flu cases are a lot more severe, coming up like a ‘terrible cold’ and lasting for a longer time than usual.

While a lot of it has been blamed on waning exposure and milder flu season last year, seasonal flu also has a lot of common symptoms with COVID-19, meaning it can be almost impossible to differentiate or get confused about your infections. In some of the cases, the confusion has also led to late or incorrect diagnosis.

Also read: After long COVID, 'long flu' can be possible too, finds study

There have also been speculations that the spike in flu cases, and commonality between symptoms of the two, may have been the very beginning of the third wave in India.

But how exactly do you tell, if what you had was just the flu, or a COVID infection?

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02/6Similarities between COVID and the flu

Both COVID-19 and the flu are infections caused by incredibly contagious viruses, which tend to cause a lot of respiratory symptoms, which is typically the reason why it can be hard to primarily differentiate between the two viral ailments in such times.

What also makes it very easy to confuse between the symptoms, right now is the manner in which breakthrough COVID cases are coming up. Even after being vaccinated, people who do get breakthrough COVID cases have a milder form of infection, which tends to feel like a case of the cold or the flu.

Again, flu infections right now are remaining for a longer time than usual, and causing terrible symptoms, which again can be a clue for people to seek medical attention, and check if what they are going through is actually the routine flu, or something else more concerning.

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03/6Why are flu symptoms lasting for longer?

Flu season this year around is swelling, and for those who have been affected, the intensity and duration of the infection can be severe, lasting for a long time.

While cases of extreme severity can have a lot of underlying causes (such as age and comorbidities), one of the reasons why flu symptoms could last for long is the lack of exposure we have to flu, thanks to COVID outbreak. Usually, we all get exposed to the flu causing virus and tend to gain some level of natural immunity (even without contracting the infection) but in the past two years, the exposure level has been minimal, and hence, causing a severe outbreak.

Some of the symptoms could also linger on for a longer time, since there is a risk of developing long flu, much like long COVID as well. Post-viral malaise could cause many to undergo continued symptoms like body aches, pains, fever, fatigue, giving the impression that the flu infection is running a long course.

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04/6How can you tell if your symptoms were actually that of COVID-19?

Testing remains the best way to find out if what a person has is the COVID-19, or the flu. However, since the two infections have a lot of symptoms in common, and there also runs the risk of a twindemic this year, it becomes very important to be aware about concerning signs, symptoms, notice worsening of signs, and know the right time to seek medical attention.

With a good percentage of people becoming vaccinated now, it can also become easy to undergo milder COVID symptoms or have COVID-19 without proper knowledge. If you find yourself plagued by such worries, what you need to be looking for is the manner in which symptoms come up.

For one, do remember that post-vaccination, severity of infections comes down. If you have probably been flu and COVID vaccinated, it could be possible that what you are going through is just routine flu, and suffering from lingering symptoms.

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05/6What else should you check for?

If you do find your symptoms worsening by the day, or the fever not breaking post 3-4 days, it could be possible that the infection may be COVID, wherein a person has fever and inflammatory symptoms which last for upto a week, before breaking. Some other symptoms, or signs of worsening such as chest pain, could also be more common with a COVID infection. What you also need to be looking out for is possible infections around you. If you had COVID, chances of the infection spreading to members in the household are higher, in comparison to flu transmission rates. Experiencing a change, or loss of smell is also a symptom more likely to strike with COVID.

If you remain unvaccinated against COVID-19, chances are also higher that you'll encounter more concerning symptoms than usual, such as breathing difficulties, nausea, brain fog, extreme fatigue as well. Oxygen saturation or fluctuations will also be more commonly occurring with COVID cases, so be very cautious about the symptoms you experience and do not let your guard down.

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06/6Doctors stress that people should be tested for both infections

With fears of twindemic and dangers associated with flu, just like with COVID-19, doctors have also stressed that while people should practice utmost respiratory hygiene, use masks and get tested at the earliest, it's important that both the tests are ordered, to rule out risks of coinfection. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people should continue to follow strongest measures, keep masks on and follow distancing protocols to fully evade COVID threat, since the pandemic is very much an active issue right now. At-home COVID tests could also be a good way to evaluate symptoms and take remedial actions, accordingly.

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