What are the Differences Between COVID-19 and Flu Symptoms?

Flu season is looking a bit different this year thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Because both the novel coronavirus and the influenza virus are upper respiratory infections, they can appear similar at first glance. Learning the differences between the two viruses can be critical to getting tested for the correct illness and receiving the best care from AFC Urgent Care Lakewood.

What are the differences between COVID-19 and the Flu? 

The following are the key differences between the COVID-19 virus and influenza:


COVID-19 is caused by a specific strain of coronavirus designated as SARS-CoV-2, which was initially diagnosed late in 2019. COVID-19 has quickly spread worldwide and is currently being assessed and studied by doctors and physicians to determine its exact cause. 

The flu is caused by one of a series of strains of the influenza virus. The virus itself is consistently evolving and changing from year to year, which is why you hear about different strains at the start of each flu season.  


Symptoms associated with COVID-19 may vary wildly from case to case, with some patients completely asymptomatic save for a sudden loss of smell and/or taste and others exhibiting severe symptoms that require hospitalization. However, asymptomatic patients can still be contagious and transmit the virus to people they come into contact with, especially without masks or gloves.

While the influenza virus shares some similar symptoms to COVID-19 including fever, chills and fatigue, loss of smell and taste are not typically associated with the flu. 

Vaccination & Treatment

Currently, there is not a known cure or vaccination for COVID-19. Research including clinical trials are underway to determine a potential vaccination for the virus. Most effective treatments for the virus are only administered intravenously and can only be prescribed to patients in a hospital setting. 

Flu treatments are readily available by prescription as well as over the counter at your local pharmacy. Mild cases of the flu can also be treated with fluids and rest at home until 24 hours after the fever breaks. The flu vaccine is administered to walk-in patients at AFC Urgent Care Lakewood seven days a week starting in the early fall. The flu shot is effective for six months, which is why it must be readministered each year for continued immunity. 

Potential Complications

Both viruses can prove to be fatal, though they have different potential complications.

COVID-19 can lead to long-term damage to a wide range of internal organs including kidneys, heart, lung and even the brain depending on the severity of symptoms experienced.  

Complications are possible with severe flu symptoms. This may include inflammation of the heart, brain and muscles, bacterial infections and even multi-organ failure.

What can I do if I fall ill?

The most effective way you can help your physician determine an accurate diagnosis of any flu-like symptoms is by getting a flu shot this fall. Flu shots are available seven days a week to walk in patients. By getting your flu shot, you can help your physician narrow down possibilities and arrange for the correct testing. While rapid flu test results are available within minutes, COVID-19 diagnostic testing results will be available to patients within 1-3 days. Both tests are available at AFC Urgent Care Lakewood. 

Flu Shots & COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing in Lakewood, Littleton & Golden, CO

If you are interested in preventing yourself from contracting the flu or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, visit AFC Urgent Care Lakewood today. Our center offers walk-in flu shots, flu testing and COVID-19 diagnostic testing to patients who are exhibiting symptoms or looking for added protection during the flu season. Most major insurance carriers are accepted. For more information, please call (303) 988-3600.