How to Differentiate Between COVID, Seasonal Flu And Swine Flu? Doctor Explains

Symptoms of Swine Flu, Seasonal flu and COVID are similar. Know about ways to differentiate between these conditions and prevention tips for it.

Written by: Puru Bansal Updated at: 2021-09-01 14:38

Flu and Covid-19 are respiratory illnesses caused by different groups of viruses. Covid-19 has created havoc among people from past two years and has taken many lives. Even though people have become vigilant about infections and hygiene but the risk still exists. There are minimal changes in symptoms of viral diseases including COVID-19 at initial a stage which makes it difficult to differentiate between normal flu, swine flu and COVID. Hence it is important to know about the difference between these three health conditions to keep yourself and people around you safe. Look at difference in these respiratory conditions and ways to prevent these diseases.

Is it Possible to Catch COVID and Seasonal Flu at same time?

According to Dr. Vignesh Naidu, Consultant Physician at Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad, it is possible for people to be infected with flu, as well as Covid-19. People can exhibit symptoms of both diseases. COVID has ability to spread between people more rapidly than any other viral infection and flu. Hence the foremost thing to do is to avoid big gatherings and events. There are similarities in the types of respiratory illnesses and it become difficult to identify the type of disease based purely on the presentation of their symptoms. 

Various tests need to be conducted to help identify the causative agent and further manage it as per said medical as well as government-mandated and approved guidelines. That being said, loss of smell and taste is more commonly noted in Covid-19 and people with flu need not present with fever as one of the complaints. Diarrhea is commonly presenting complaints in the young people with flu-like symptoms as compared to the adult or the elderly population. The effects of the vaccination on the presenting symptoms are thought to make them milder, symptoms tend to last longer and the ability to spread the disease appears to increase.

Common Symptoms of COVID-19, Swine Flu and Seasonal Flu

As mentioned earlier, the symptoms of seasonal flu and swine flu are quite similar. The most commonly seen symptoms in these respiratory disease caused by these viruses are as follows- 

  • Fever and chills
  • The sensation of having fever without actually having high temperature
  • Cough which can be both dry or productive
  • Sense of breathlessness
  • Tiredness
  • Easy fatigue
  • Giddiness
  • Fainting sensation 
  • Sore throat
  • Running nose 
  • Nasal congestion or stuffy nose 
  • Muscle aches 
  • Generalized body aches
  • Headaches and nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of smell 
  • An altered sense of taste or loss of taste 

Complications caused by COVID-19 with Swine Flu

The more severe forms of complications in these include pneumonitis, pneumonia, respiratory distress or failure, life-threatening infections, heart attack, stroke, multi-organ dysfunction or failure, inflammation of the brain, muscles, and blood clots in the blood vessels supplying the lungs, clots in the peripheral circulatory systems, secondary infection both bacterial and fungal. The altered blood supply to the large bones cause necrosis and subsequent fractures, spontaneous bleed from the lower gastrointestinal system have also been documented. 

Grossly elevated blood sugar levels post recovery from Covid has been observed not just in diabetics but borderline and non-diabetics as well. The worst of the complications tend to occur at higher frequencies in Covid rather than in any other respiratory illnesses. 

Also Read- What Causes Muscle Cramps? Know The Treatment And Preventive Measures

Prevention Tips for COVID and Seasonal Flu

A panel of diagnostic tests is of utmost importance to correctly identify the kind of fever affecting the body. There are few tips given by Dr. Vignesh Naidu to prevent yourself from having any types of flu and viral including COVID-19.

  1. Encouraging flu shots are important, take flu shots whenever available.
  2. Rule out the conditions of colds and fever first
  3. Check the condition of co-infections and dengue fever
  4. Take tests to find out if you have swine flu
  5. Check for Abdominal pains, persistent vomiting, and mucosal bleeding.
  6. Do not move between different temperatures rapidly
  7. Keep your environment sanitized and hygienic
  8. Change clothes and use disinfectants in clothes while washing to was off any risk of infections
  9. Maintain adequate distance from people who are sneezing, coughing or looking dull.
  10. Undergo diagnostic tests at the earliest to determine these co-infections for medical management can reduce mortality and morbidity to a large extent.

Also Read- South Africa Detects C.1.2, A New COVID-19 Variant: What We Know About It So Far

Tests to Differentiate Viral Diseases

There are different tests to help you identify different viral respiratory illnesses. Some are blood based and others are swab based. However in COVID both blood and swab based are important, rapid antigen kits are available to identify the type of virus.  The more reliable test for COVID is the swab tests for RT PCR.

Test for H1N1, Influenza A, B, MERS, SARS COV2, antigen and antibody qualitative and quantitative are also available help understand a slightly longer duration / late presenting cases.  Aiding the medical management is the quantification of inflammatory markers to keep a tab on the progression or regression of disease, also radio diagnosis with the use of high-resolution imaging of the lungs the pattern of lung involvement which help us identify the possibility of the underlying cause and also the response to the medical management of the disease.

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