Fitness Facts: What is the cause of my symptoms?

By Connie Colbert
GCU Director of Health Services

There are a lot of similarities between the current winter illnesses from the coronavirus and the flu, but there are some differences that can help health care providers distinguish them.

Connie Colbert

A key difference is the incubation period (the number of days between when you're infected with something and when you might see symptoms) for the viruses. The flu always strikes quickly, typically one to three days. COVID-19, however, can take anywhere from two to 14 days. Which is why it is important to isolate right away after being exposed so as not to unknowingly infect others.

People usually recover from the flu in seven to 10 days. It takes around 10 days to recover from COVID-19, especially those with severe cases, which can mean several weeks or even months of gradual recovery. But with some of the milder cases of COVID-19, you may recover in 2-3 days.

Below is a list of symptoms that are easily confused among coronavirus, the flu, the cold and allergies.


Coronavirus and flu both cause fever, but it’s rare for the common cold. COVID-19 patients usually have a fever of 100F or higher, while flu sufferers often experience fever of 100F to 102F that lasts three to four days.


COVID-19 patients sometimes have headaches. Flu sufferers often experience intense headaches. Headaches are rare with the cold but sometimes are caused by allergies.

Extreme exhaustion:

Patients with the COVID-19 sometimes experience this intense form of fatigue, but it typically progresses slowly. Flu, on the other hand, often causes severe exhaustion as an early symptom.

Body aches and pains:

The flu virus often causes body aches that are severe. Aches are usually present with COVID-19 but not always. Muscle aches and tiredness sometimes can be seen with a cold but are usually very mild.

Fatigue and weakness: 

Very similar to body aches, fatigue and weakness are more common and usually more severe with the flu than with the coronavirus.

Stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, sore throat:

One or more of these are sometimes present with the flu, but they’re all rare for the coronavirus.

Itchy nose, eyes, mouth or inner ear:

This is usually related to allergies. It’s rarely from COVID-19.


Common to both flu and coronavirus. With COVID-19, it is usually a dry cough. It can be mild to moderate with a cold and sometimes with allergies.

Shortness of breath: 

A serious symptom that can occur in cases of COVID-19 but also with the flu. It can also be seen with allergies but very rarely with a cold unless someone has underlying medical conditions such as asthma or COPD. Seek immediate medical attention immediately if you experience this life-threatening symptom.


Sometimes caused by both coronavirus and the flu but not seen with a cold or allergies.


If you have overlapping symptoms and are still unsure, keep track of your symptoms and speak to a health care professional who can exam you and use a diagnostic test to further determine the cause. As always, stay home when you are ill, get rest and eat a well-balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables.


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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

(Moses addressed Israel, reminding them of God's deliverance of them from Egypt, and His commands given to them:) "You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the miraculous signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out (from bondage and delivered you.). The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear." (Deuteronomy 7:19)

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