Fall Is Here, and So Is the Flu

Fall Leaves

Along with cooler weather, football games, warm fuzzy sweaters, and colorful leaves, fall also ushers in the beginning of flu season.

Now, more than ever, it’s difficult to tell if those sniffles, or that scratchy throat are due to a cold, the flu or Covid.

In the following article we’ll go over what they are, how to tell the difference, how to prevent, and when to see your healthcare provider.

The common cold, influenza (flu), and Covid are caused by different viruses. Each is spread by coming into direct contact with a person or object that contains the virus, or by breathing in aerosolized droplets that have been coughed or sneezed into the air.

Can you tell which you have by the symptoms?

As you’ll see by the list below, it can be difficult to tell if you have flu, a cold, or COVID simply by symptoms alone.

Below is a list of symptoms that are common with each virus.
Remember, you may experience all of the symptoms, or only a few.

Symptoms: Common symptoms are sneezing, coughing, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat.

Fever is RARE

Headache, fever, body aches, fatigue, chills,

FEVER is common

Less common: cough, stuffy nose, sore throat

Fatigue, cough, fever, chills, sore throat,  headache, body aches, runny nose, or congestion, loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting.
When symptoms appear: Gradual onset

Usually appear 1-3 days after exposure

Abrupt onset

Usually appear 1-4 days after exposure

Symptoms can appear 2-14 days after exposure
Duration: 7-10 days 7-10 days 7-10 days
Vaccine available?  No Yes  Yes
Medication available? OTC cold medications OTC flu medications, Prescription anti-virals OTC medications for fever, body aches, Anti-virals, mono-clonal antibody treatment

While knowing the symptoms can be helpful, illness and severity differs from person to person. The only way to tell whether you have COVID or the flu is, you guessed it… take a test.

If you are feeling under the weather, and aren’t sure if it’s a cold, or something more serious, be sure to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider, or your local pharmacy for testing.


An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.” -Benjamin Franklin

Now that you know the symptoms, what can you do to prevent becoming ill?

Flu season lasts from October through May, and getting vaccinated early reduces your risk of contracting the flu.

The best way to prevent COVID or the flu is …

  • Vaccination
  • Proper hand washing
  • Covering your nose, and mouth when sneezing or coughing
  • Disinfecting surfaces regularly
  • Avoiding individuals who are sick
  • Staying home if you are sick

But I heard the flu vaccine causes the flu!

The flu vaccine does NOT cause the flu. It is possible after receiving any vaccination to experience flu-like symptoms (Headache, fatigue, fever, nausea).

Once you receive the vaccine, your body identifies an intruder, fights it off and then creates antibodies against that virus. This immune response is what makes some people experience mild side effects from vaccination. The great news is that if you encounter that virus, the body is able to identify it quickly and deploys those antibodies to fight it off.

Moral of the story, give your immune system the best chance of fighting off illness by getting vaccinated today.


If you end up under the weather this flu season, below are important pointers to help you on your way to feeling better.

  • Rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Over the counter cold or flu medications, fever reducers
  • Monitor symptoms

When to seek medical treatment?

The Flu and Covid can lead to more serious, even life threatening illness.
If you experience any of the following, seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

  • Difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Persistent dizziness, confusion, inability to arouse
  • Seizures
  • Not urinating
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Severe weakness or unsteadiness
  • Fever or cough that improve but then return or worsen
  • Worsening of chronic medical condition

Patients of Southwest Family Physicians, call to schedule an appointment to receive your flu vaccine

If you are not a patient of ours, we would love the opportunity to meet you and establish care, in the meantime, you can schedule your flu vaccine with your healthcare provider or at your local pharmacy.

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

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