Peak flu season is approaching, and it is important to know the signs and symptoms of the flu in case you become ill. Being aware of flu symptoms is especially important this year, as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Respiratory illnesses such as the flu, COVID-19, and the common cold share similar traits, which can make it difficult to determine why you don’t feel well. Early diagnosis is key to your treatment and recovery.
For more information, please watch this video about flu symptoms:
The Flu is Serious
The flu is not a bad cold. It can result in serious health complications, including pneumonia or bacterial infections, which can lead to hospitalization and even death. Most people who get the flu will recover in several days, but some are at an increased risk of serious flu complications, including young children, pregnant women, and individuals with chronic medical problems. People who have the flu often feel some or all the following symptoms, which typically begin suddenly between one to four days after infection:
- Fever or chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea (more common in children)
How is COVID-19 Different from the Flu?
COVID-19 symptoms vary and can occur up to 14 days after infection. If you become ill as a result of COVID-19 you may experience the symptoms presented above. While COVID-19 and the flu have many symptoms in common, there are a few important differences. Common COVID-19 symptoms which aren’t normally present with the flu are:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- New loss of taste or smell
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea (for both adults and children)
Testing is the Only Way to Confirm Why You are Ill
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expects both the flu and COVID-19 viruses to spread this winter, and it is possible to have both illnesses at the same time. While influenza testing is widely available at most medical facilities, please check the COVID-19 Testing Site Locator for local testing facilities. You can also use the CDC COVID-19 Self Checker to help you make decisions on when to seek testing and medical care.
It’s Not Too Late to Get the Flu Vaccine!
Remember, flu vaccination is your best protection against the flu. You can still get vaccinated to protect yourself while flu viruses are spreading and causing illness. This year’s flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, but it will reduce your risk of flu complications and help conserve essential healthcare resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
All Federal Employees Health Benefit (FEHB) plans offer flu vaccine coverage. Visit the OPM Healthcare Plan Information website or your insurance provider for more information. You can also contact your healthcare provider's office or use the CDC Flu page and the Flu Vaccine Finder to locate retail pharmacies near you that offer the flu vaccine.