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How do I know if I've got the flu or COVID-19?

Flu, COVID, and other contagious respiratory illnesses can cause similar symptoms. Symptoms may include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue (tiredness), sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, headaches, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea. Even though flu and COVID can be tough to tell apart, they are caused by different viruses and are treated differently. If you are experiencing any symptoms, it is important to get tested to confirm a diagnosis.

People can be infected with both flu and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time and have symptoms of both influenza and COVID-19.

Fortunately, we have safe and effective vaccines to help prevent COVID-19 and to help prevent the flu.

Learn more about similarities and difference between the flu and COVID-19.

Higher risk groups

Flu can be serious for anyone, but it is especially threatening for babies and children under five years of age, pregnant women, seniors ages 65+, and many people who have long-term health problems. If you or a family member is in one of these categories, call your doctor right away if you develop symptoms.

If you are in one of these higher risk groups, doctors can prescribe antiviral medicine to prevent severe illness. The medicine works best if given within 48 hours of getting sick. In some situations, antivirals can be given to high-risk people to prevent illness.

Protect against flu

Flu vaccination is the single best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from flu. Health experts recommend an annual flu shot for all people 6 months and older, and especially for pregnant people and people at high-risk.

You can also take these everyday steps to protect against the flu:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand cleaners.
  • When with people outside your household, wear a snug-fitting mask that covers your nose and mouth.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Touching these areas spreads germs.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Avoid close contact with others. Stay home from work and school if you are sick until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. Be sure to get tested for COVID-19 before interacting with others.

Flu vaccine is safe and important during pregnancy

Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy put pregnant people at greater risk of severe disease. But getting a flu shot can cut a pregnant person's risk of being hospitalized with flu by an average of 40 percent. Plus, when pregnant people get a flu shot, they help protect their babies for the first several months after birth, when they are too young to get vaccinated.

Flu vaccine has been safely given to millions of pregnant people across many decades. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that pregnant people get flu vaccine during any trimester of their pregnancy. Learn more about flu vaccine in pregnancy.

How to get flu vaccine

Ask your healthcare provider if they offer flu shots, or visit HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find a flu clinic near you.