Is it the flu, COVID-19, or just a cold?

Cold and flu season is upon us, and, with it, the all-too-familiar sneezes and coughs.

But with COVID-19 cases on the rise, some people are experiencing a troubling new symptom: worry that each sneeze or cough could be the sign of something more serious.

The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to reduce the chance of getting sick. In fact, many of the habits doctors recommend to prevent COVID-19 can also reduce your risk of getting the flu or a cold. These include wearing a mask in public, maintaining 6 feet of distance from people outside your household, and washing your hands frequently.

If you haven’t gotten a flu shot this year, make plans to do so right away. Visit kp.org/flu to learn about safe and convenient vaccination options near you, available at no cost for Kaiser Permanente members.

“We don’t yet have a COVID-19 vaccine, but we do have a flu vaccine,” said national infectious disease leader Paul Thottingal, MD. “It’s safe and effective, and can protect you and your family from a potentially life-threatening illness.”

The chart below lays out the most common symptoms of a cold, the flu, and COVID-19. If you think you might have COVID-19 or the flu, we offer members several options for getting care and advice from the comfort of home. These include completing an e-visit on kp.org/evisits, scheduling a video or phone appointment, calling the advice number on your member ID card, or emailing your doctor. You can also access care in person if you prefer. 

Cold, flu, or COVID-19: Know the symptoms. Cold Signs and symptoms: Symptom onset: Gradual; Body aches: Slight; Cough: Common; Diarrhea: Rare; Fatigue, weakness: Sometimes; Fever, chills, shaking: Rare; Loss of taste or smell: Never; Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing: Rare; Stuffy nose: Common; Sneezing: Common; Sore throat: Common; Headache: Rare. Flu Signs and symptoms: Symptom onset: 2 days; Body aches: Common; Cough: Common; Diarrhea: Sometimes; Fatigue, weakness: Common; Fever, chills, shaking: Common; Loss of taste or smell: Never; Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing: Common; Stuffy nose: Common; Sneezing: Sometimes; Sore throat: Common; Headache: Common. COVID-19 Signs and symptoms: Symptom onset: 2 to 14 days; Body aches: Common; Cough: Common; Diarrhea: Sometimes; Fatigue, weakness: Common; Fever, chills, shaking: Common; Loss of taste or smell: Sometimes; Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing: Common; Stuffy nose: Rare; Sneezing: Rare; Sore throat: Common; Headache: Common. Learn more about COVID-19 at kp.org/coronavirus. Visit kp.org/flu for information on flu symptoms and care and to find a flu shot location near you.
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