Feeling under the weather with a sniffly nose and a sore throat? Chances are, in this pandemic, you’ve already pulled out a self-test ART kit to check if you’re down with Covid-19 or if it’s something less serious.
Covid-19 and the flu (or influenza) can be hard to tell apart. The best way to know what you’re ill with is to do a test with your ART kit; when in doubt, it’s best to self-isolate until you’re sure, so that you can keep your loved ones and household members safe and well.
Here are the similarities and key differences between these two illnesses, to help you better care for yourself.
While the flu and Covid-19 are both viral infections, they are caused by different viruses.
- Flu: Caused by the Influenza A or Influenza B virus
- Covid-19: Caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus
Signs and Symptoms
The flu and Covid-19 share common symptoms, including:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches and headaches
- Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
Although the symptoms for Covid-19 and flu are very similar, there are a few differences that may help you figure out what you’re sick with.
- Loss of sense of smell and taste: It is very common for someone who is sick with Covid-19 to lose their smell and taste; whereas this is less likely if you’re ill with the flu.
- Time taken for your symptoms to appear after being infected: With the flu, your symptoms may start to emerge 1 – 4 days after infection; whereas for Covid-19, you may start to experience your symptoms 2 – 5 days after being infected.
Modes of Transmission
Covid-19 and the flu spread in a similar fashion. Both spread through respiratory droplets from an infected person, which can be produced by sneezing, coughing or talking. Transmission can also occur if you touch a surface (that the virus is on) and touch your eyes, nose or mouth, before sanitising your hands.
A main difference between the two, is when an infected person is considered contagious.
- For those with the flu, you may be able to transmit the virus about one day before your symptoms emerge; it’s observed that only individuals experiencing symptoms would be contagious.
- On the other hand, for those with Covid-19, even asymptomatic individuals (that is, those who do not present with any symptoms) may be contagious; and that you can spread the Covid-19 virus a few days before any symptoms show.
For most individuals, you can recover at home for both Covid-19 and the flu. Your doctor will prescribe you medication, and this may include antiviral drugs, to manage the symptoms that you’re experiencing.
- For those suffering from Covid-19, you should isolate at home (or in your room) for at least 72 hours; and either ensure you test negative on a ART test or stay isolated for 7 days after testing positive, before you go back to your daily activities.
Those who are at highest risk of more severe complications are individuals who may already be immunocompromised or have existing underlying health conditions. In these cases, it’s likely that they’ll be sent to the hospital for closer care and treatment.
For serious cases, complications can include:
- Respiratory failure
- Secondary infections or sepsis
- Organ failure
- Heart attacks
Other complications for Covid-19 infections also include the possibility of blood clots forming in one’s lungs, heart, legs or brain; and the onset of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome.
Getting vaccinated is one of the best ways protect yourself from sickness, whether it’s from Covid-19 or the flu. You can be assured of the safety of the available vaccines: the Ministry of Health ensures that all vaccines that are administered in Singapore are safe for use.
The recommended frequency of when you would need to get vaccinated differs.
- Covid-19: The MOH has recommended that everyone completes their primary vaccination series; for most, this would be two doses of a mRNA-vaccine. You may also have received your first booster shot; and for those above the age of 60, may have received a reminder to go for your second booster shot. You can locate the closest vaccination centre to your home here.
- Flu: Annual influenza vaccinations are recommended to ensure that your vaccinations stay updated against the changing strains of virus.
As they are recommended under the National Adult Immunisation Schedule, flu vaccinations are eligible for CHAS subsidies — even if you book an appointment to get vaccinated at our DA clinics. You can also get your flu vaccination done from the comfort of your home at your convenience.
In addition to getting vaccinated, practising good hygiene habits can also minimise your chances of falling ill. This means sanitising and washing your hands regularly, and avoiding touching your face unnecessarily.
If you’re feeling unwell, the first thing you should do is speak to a doctor. Consult a licensed GP anytime on the DA app, with medication delivered to your doorstep within a few hours.