Coronavirus Vs Flu: How To Spot The Difference? Know The Exact Symptoms

Coronavirus is an infectious disease with symptoms similar to the flu or common cold. Some of the symptoms include fever, dry cough, tiredness, difficulty in breathing and diarrhea. These symptoms of COVID-19 can be easily mistaken for flu and vice versa. Here's how you can spot the difference.

Coronavirus Vs Flu: How To Spot The Difference? Know The Exact Symptoms

Coronavirus: The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to flu and common cold


  • Coronavirus affects the respiratory tract of the infected person
  • Symptoms of coronavirus are similar to flu and common cold
  • One can also experience breathing problems due to coronavirus

Coronavirus was discovered for the first time humans in December 2019 in China. It is an infectious disease which can easily transfer from one person to another. The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the flu or common cold. Some common symptoms of coronavirus include fever, tiredness and dry cough. Some patients may also experience body pain, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat and diarrhea. It can also cause breathing problems in many. According to the World Health Organisation, someone with fever, cough and difficulty in breathing should seek immediate medical help. Coronavirus has now affected more than 120 people in India. With the change in weather, many are also experiencing flu like symptoms. Symptoms of coronavirus can be easily mistaken for flu and vice versa.

Coronavirus vs flu: How to spot the difference

To draw a fine line between the symptoms of coronavirus, flu and common cold we spoke to Dr. P. Raghu Ram (President of The Association of Surgeons of India) and Dr. Sharad Joshi (Principal Consultant, Pulmonology, Max hospital)

Also read: Coronavirus: Your Queries Answered By Experts

Is it coronavirus or something else?

Dr. Raghu Ram explains the symptoms of coronavirus and how to distinguish them from flu symptoms. Here are some key points he explained-

1. Understanding the symptoms of coronavirus

Dry cough, fever and breathlessness can together be identified as symptoms of coronavirus. Dry cough occurs because of irritation in the throat. Breathlessness occurs because the lung tissues and airways are damaged. As a result of this viral infection, one gets fever. It always includes symptoms like cough, fever and breathlessness. 80% of these symptoms are mild. In many cases, people can be asymptomatic. This is the reason why more and more people with flu-like symptoms need to be screened on a wider scale.


Coronavirus: Dry cough, cold and breathing problems are a sign of COVID-19
Photo Credit: iStock

2. Symptoms of flu

Talking of flu, it begins with a running nose, followed by cough and fever. Very few people infected with coronavirus have reported having a running nose along with a cough.

3. What about a sore throat?

If someone only has a sore throat, then it cannot be a symptom of coronavirus. One can have sore throat by drinking contaminated water. It is important to not get paranoid with symptoms as just having sore throat should not concern you.

Super spreaders are those people who are infected but they don't know that they are infected. They can shed a huge viral load and can affect a disproportionately large number of people. To be able to identify these asymptomatic people, we need to identify a large number of people, much more than what we are doing at the moment.

We also need support from private players right now. National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories should do the screenings free of cost. This is global emergency and the government should give directions for this to be done at a wider scale.

Also read: How Effective Are Hand Sanitisers In Preventing Coronavirus? Doctors Explain

Dr. Sharad Joshi advises people to stay calm and take all the necessary precautions. "There is no need to panic. One may experience cold, cough and other flu like symptoms due to change in weather. Flu symptoms are quite common during this time of the year. Mild flu-like symptoms should not create a panic situation. Unless someone is experiencing breathing problems and other respiratory problems, there is no need to get tested for coronavirus. Whereas, flu- like symptoms with breathing issues need medical attention. If these symptoms last longer than usual, medical advice is necessary in such a situation as well."


Seek medical help if you experience breathing problems, says expert
Photo Credit: iStock

"One should also follow all the necessary precaution because coronavirus can affect anyone. It is advised to not to take any medication without doctor's consultation," he adds.

Also read: Why Is Handwashing Important To Fight Coronavirus? Know When And How To Wash Your Hands To Stay Safe

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.