Strep vs. flu vs. COVID-19 means a whole new level of stress for parents, teachers, and students this back to school season. With flu season approaching, it can be hard to tell if your symptoms are flu, COVID, or maybe strep throat. What are the differences and similarities between strep throat, the flu, and COVID-19?

Flu or COVID: How Can You Tell?

The flu and COVID-19 are respiratory viruses. The main difference is which virus causes them. Unlike COVID-19, which is caused by a coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the flu is caused by various strains of the influenza virus. Although the flu and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses, they share very similar symptoms and may require testing to be able to tell which one you might have.

Similarities between Flu and COVID

The flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics and both can appear asymptomatic, which means you show no symptoms. Shared symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever/chills
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing

Differences Between Flu and COVID

While the flu and COVID-19 share a lot of the same symptoms, there are some signs you can use to tell the difference.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Having the flu can also cause these symptoms, but it is much more rare for difficulty breathing to be a flu symptom. COVID-19 is documented to cause a loss of taste and smell, unlike the flu. This symptom can appear with the flu, but is not likely.

Perhaps the most drastic difference between the two is how suddenly symptoms can appear. While both can go days without showing symptoms, the onset of those symptoms vary greatly. Anyone who has had the flu will know just how quickly symptoms start appearing. COVID-19’s symptoms will appear gradually, most of the time over the course of days, not in hours like the flu.

Strep vs. Flu vs. COVID

Strep or Flu or COVID: How Can You Tell?

Now that we are familiar with the similarities and differences between the flu and COVID-19, what about strep, the flu, and COVID-19?

Strep throat is another illness to be wary of as we head into the colder months. While the flu and COVID-19 are respiratory illnesses, strep throat is a bacterial infection. It is specifically caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. Strep throat, while still similar to the flu and COVID-19, might be easier to tell apart.

Similarities: Strep vs. COVID vs. Flu

While they are all very different from one another, there are still symptoms they all share in common. With the flu, strep throat, and COVID, a sore throat is not the only shared symptom. Shared symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches

Just like the flu, strep symptoms can appear suddenly and very quickly. Thankfully there are more differences between strep, flu, and COVID-19.

Differences: Strep vs. Flu vs. COVID

Strep throat usually causes additional symptoms that are typically not attributed to the flu or COVID-19 including:

  • Pain when swallowing
  • Small red spots on the roof of mouth
  • Swollen, red tonsils
  • Swollen lymph node on neck
  • A rash

Strep symptoms appear quickly and suddenly unlike COVID. Another difference is that strep usually does not cause cough, congestion, or shortness of breath.

COVID and Flu Vaccines

Keep in mind, vaccines are available for the flu and COVID. The flu shot is generally available starting in mid-October each year. We also offer COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots.

Curbside Rapid Testing Available!

Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine in Colorado and Rapid Testing LLC are partnering to provide curbside rapid COVID and strep testing at all of our clinics. Testing is available without a visit with a provider and you’ll receive results the same day as testing. Click here to learn about the curbside tests and to schedule today!

Keep in mind, if you or your child test positive for strep, you will need to schedule a visit with a provider in order to treat the infection. If left untreated, there is a high risk for rheumatic fever or scarlet fever. It is also advised to seek treatment for a positive COVID test if feeling unwell.

Still Not Sure? Visit Us!

If you feel sick, it may be stressful to determine what you may have. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, we recommend seeking medical care with an in-clinic or telehealth visit at Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine in Colorado. If the medical provider orders tests, we will schedule you for curbside testing at our clinic location nearest to you. We have locations along the Denver metro area.