Understanding the Differences Among Influenza, COVID, And the Common Cold


Experts and ordinary individuals alike draw comparisons between COVID and the prominent form of influenza with which we’ve dealt with for generations. These are sometimes useful, as some of the strategies (such as masks and social distancing) used to mitigate the flu can also work for COVID. Still, it’s important to understand how these diseases differ, as we clarify below:


Both influenza and COVID-19 can prompt a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to life-threatening. People with both illnesses may suffer:

  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Sore throat

In some people, however, COVID goes beyond these symptoms to include unexpected concerns such as changes to the perception of taste or even loss of smell. Meanwhile, the common cold’s impact is usually limited to nasal congestion and mild coughing.

Timing of Symptoms

In many people, the chief differences between COVID and influenza have less to do with the specific symptoms and instead reflect when they arrive. With the flu and common cold, most symptoms occur within a few days of infection. The asymptomatic period tends to be longer for COVID, however, with symptoms rarely showing up within five days of infection. Unfortunately, this makes it easier for the disease to spread undetected.

How the Illnesses Spread

Not only does COVID take longer to appear than the flu and common cold, it’s possible for some people to be contagious for well over a week. For the flu, the ability to infect others arrives just one day before symptoms and generally goes away after a few days.

All three illnesses are primarily spread by droplets, which are expelled while talking, laughing, sneezing, or coughing. Unfortunately, COVID appears to be far more contagious, with super-spreader events more likely with this disease.

If you’ve suffered due to medical negligence related to COVID, contact Regan Zambri Long PLLC to learn more about your legal options.