With winter fast approaching, fears of a “twindemic” are growing among doctors and researchers. Not only could coronavirus and the flu overburden hospitals or even infect some patients simultaneously, but many people fear that if they get sick, they won’t know the difference between the two illnesses. And, as The New York Times points out, that’s a valid concern. “Most symptoms of the two diseases are so similar that, short of a test—or two or three tests—it won’t be possible to know for sure,” science and health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr. wrote in a recent article. However, he explained, there are some signs and symptoms that could tip you off that you’ve got COVID, and not the flu. Chief among them? Loss of smell. Read on to learn more and for an update on where the virus is headed, find out How Fast COVID Is Spreading in Your State.
You’re probably familiar with the symptoms of the flu: fever, fatigue, a sore throat, headaches, body aches, runny nose, and sneezing. Most often, the flu also presents with a bad cough. In more serious cases, it can progress to pneumonia, which can add shortness of breath and rapid breathing to that list of symptoms. Unfortunately, much of this closely mirrors the experience of having COVID-19, complicating a clear diagnosis.
That’s why McNeil recommends looking for COVID’s more “wacky” symptoms, which could offer insight into a person’s condition. “The one sign that really distinguishes the two infections is that many COVID-19 victims suddenly lose their sense of smell—not because they have a stuffy nose, but because they don’t register even strong odors like onions or coffee,” explains McNeil.
In fact, in a new study published on Oct. 1, a team from University College London studied 590 patients in the U.K. who reported suddenly losing either their sense of smell or taste. The patients were then given coronavirus tests and 77.6 percent overall came back positive for COVID. Specifically, 80.4 percent of subjects reporting anosmia—AKA the loss of smell—and 77.7 percent of those who lost their sense of taste tested positive. That’s why anosmia is the strongest indicator you have COVID before you even get tested.
In other words, if you haven’t lost your sense of smell, don’t make the assumption that you’ve got the flu, and not COVID. But if you have lost your sense of smell, you can fairly safely bet that you’re dealing with coronavirus, and should take all the necessary precautions.
As we head into colder months, the key is to remember that this virus is very much still at large. Mask wearing, frequent hand washing, and social distancing are all essential strategies in fighting the novel coronavirus. But now, it’s time to add one more thing to that arsenal: the flu shot. We may not be able to prevent coronavirus or the flu completely, but we can lower our risk significantly. Read on to learn more common symptoms of COVID, according to survivors, and for more on the most prominent case out…