COVID Or Stomach Flu: How Do You Know The Difference?

·5-min read

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken centre stage around the world and sometimes, it does feel like there are no other illnesses plaguing our healthcare system. While Covid-19 primarily may affect the lungs and the immune system, the signs leading up to the virus are fairly generic.

Much like most illnesses, the coronavirus infection also begins with mild symptoms that can be often confused with the flu. This has made it increasingly difficult for doctors and general folks alike, to diagnose if it is Covid or stomach flu.

Some of the more common symptoms for Covid-19 include fever, dry cough, headache and body pain. Those symptoms practically stand for the common cold too.

Sadly, some of the more advanced symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea are common to stomach flu as well.

So how do you tell the difference between Covid or stomach flu, and what should be your next course of action? Read on because we have you covered.

What Is Stomach Flu?

covid or stomach flu
covid or stomach flu

Image courtesy: iStock

Gastroenteritis, more commonly known as the stomach flu is exactly as common as you think. It occurs when the lining of your intestines inflame due to a virus, parasites, or bacteria.

So, the odds are you’ve picked up the stomach flu either from contaminated water, stale food or possibly from another infected individual. Some of the symptoms of gastroenteritis include:

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Diarrhoea

  • Headache

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal pain

In addition to these, if one is severely affected, they may experience the following symptoms:

  • Bloody urine

  • Fever doesn’t settle and is higher than 101.5°F (38.3°C)

  • Children are also more prone to dehydration. You will be able to spot this if you find them with a dry mouth or with no or little urine.

How Do You Treat Stomach Flu?

For the better, gastroenteritis does not require any form of major treatment. It usually subsides on its own. That said, you will lose a lot of fluids due to diarrhoea or vomiting during the process.

Most doctors recommend to keep drinking water and consume electrolytes to avoid dehydration. Even soups (and a book to go with it) are a great and nutritious resource when suffering from the stomach flu.

More importantly, practice good hygiene, wash hands, keep the house clean, and consume home-cooked food, and avoid eating raw food.

What Is COVID-19?

covid or stomach flu
covid or stomach flu

Image Source: Pexels

Covid-19 is a virus that has changed our healthcare and socialisation protocols forever. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the virus was first discovered in 2019 and is known medically as SARS-CoV-2.

The first reported cases of the Covid-19 virus were in China, following which, the virus spread to other parts of the world. By the first quarter of 2020, WHO declared the infection as a pandemic prompting circuit breaker lockdowns and travel limitations to restrict the spread of infection.

Over the past year, the virus mutated to develop new strains that are affecting children. The original strain gravely affected people over the age of 65 or those with pre-existing comorbidities. Many studies suggest that the Covid-19 virus causes acute respiratory syndrome that affects the functioning of the lungs.

WHO suggests that about 40-81 percent of the world population could be infected by the virus. As of May 19, 2021, there have been over 163.8 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, including 3.39 million deaths.
The symptoms of a Covid-19 infection include:

  • Cough

  • Chills or fever

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness or breath

  • Body or muscle aches

  • Fatigue

  • Loss of smell or taste

  • Headache

  • Runny nose or congestion

  • Sore throat

  • Vomiting

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhoea

COVID-19 Vs Stomach Flu: How To Tell The Difference

covid or stomach flu
covid or stomach flu

Image Source: iStock

While the end result of the stomach flu and Covid-19 virus on a body is completely different, the common symptoms make it extremely difficult to identify. Sadly, there’s still not enough data to help clearly demarcate both infections on the human body.

However, a more telling sign of Covid-19 includes loss of taste and smell, as well as, excessive perspiration and heavy breathing. These aren’t related to stomach flu, and hence, do not overlap with Covid-19.

Covid-19 tends to affect the upper respiratory systems more and can also lead to throat and nasal congestion, and cough.

Another telling sign of Covid is chest pains, although they might not be common to all patients. That’s another symptom that’s generally not seen with patients having stomach flu.

What Should You Do If You Have Covid-19 Symptoms?

Even as vaccines are now available, it does not completely absolve you from the risk of contracting the Covid-19 infection. However, it will help lower the risk of the virus on the human body. I

f you haven’t taken the jab yet, there is a grave chance that you will contract the virus if you don’t be careful.

If you are showing symptoms of Covid-19 infection. Make sure to:

  • Quarantine yourself immediately to reduce the risk of exposure to other people

  • Get yourself tested for Covid-19

  • Monitor your body temperature and oxygen levels every six hours

  • Move to a hospital with access to a ventilator and oxygen in case of difficulty in breathing

How To Protect Yourself From Covid-19

best face masks for covid
best face masks for covid

Image source: iStock

Apart from taking the vaccine, the government has been sharing a number of standard operating protocols to follow to prevent you from contracting the virus. You should follow:

  • Maintain social distancing of at six feet from other individuals

  • Wear a face mask at all times when outdoors, especially in public places

  • Avoid public gatherings

  • Regularly wash your hands or use a sanitiser when you come in contact with different surfaces

  • Limit interacting with other people and stay home for as long as possible

At present, the only way to beat Covid-19 is by reducing the risk of infection. The lockdowns, work-from-home and home-based learning schedules are only temporary. Life will go back to the new and different ‘normal’ eventually, but we will need to be patient and cautious until then.


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