Fitness Facts: What is the cause of my symptoms?

Written by Connie Colbert
GCU Director of Health Services

There are a lot of similarities between current winter illnesses from the coronavirus and influenza, but there are some differences that can help health care providers distinguish between them.

Connie Colbert

The main difference is the incubation period (The number of days between becoming infected with something and the time symptoms may appear) for viruses. The flu always spreads quickly, usually one to three days. However, COVID-19 can take anywhere from 2 to 14 days. This is why it is so important to isolate immediately after exposure so that you do not inadvertently infect others.

People usually recover from the flu within seven to 10 days. Recovery from COVID-19 takes about 10 days, especially for those with severe cases, which can mean several weeks or even months of gradual recovery. But in some milder cases of COVID-19, you may recover within 2-3 days.

Here is a list of symptoms that can easily be confused with the coronavirus, influenza, cold and allergies.


Both the coronavirus and the flu cause a fever, but it’s rare for the common cold. COVID-19 patients typically have a fever of 100 F or higher, while those with influenza often have a fever of 100 F to 102 F that lasts three to four days.


COVID-19 patients sometimes get headaches. People with influenza often have severe headaches. Headaches are rare with the common cold but sometimes occur due to allergies.

extreme fatigue

Patients with COVID-19 sometimes experience this severe form of fatigue, but it usually develops slowly. On the other hand, the flu often causes extreme fatigue as an early symptom.

Body aches and pains:

The influenza virus often causes severe pain in the body. Aches usually appear with COVID-19 but not always. Muscle aches and fatigue can sometimes be noticed when you have a cold, but they are usually very mild.

Fatigue and weakness:

Much like body aches, fatigue and weakness are more common and usually more severe with influenza than with coronavirus.

Stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, sore throat:

One or more of these sometimes have the flu, but they are all rare for coronavirus.

Itchy nose, eyes, mouth, or inner ear:

This is usually associated with allergies. Rarely from COVID-19.


It is common to both influenza and the coronavirus. With COVID-19, it is usually a dry cough. It can be mild to moderate with a cold and sometimes with allergies.

Shortness of breath:

It is a serious symptom that can occur in cases of COVID-19 as well as influenza. It can also be seen with allergies but rarely with a cold unless someone has underlying medical conditions such as asthma or COPD. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience these life-threatening symptoms.


It is sometimes caused by both coronavirus and influenza but is not seen with colds or allergies.


If you have overlapping symptoms and are still not sure, track your symptoms and speak to a health care professional who can examine you and use a diagnostic test to further determine the cause. As always, stay home when you are sick, get some rest and eat a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables.

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