Is it the Flu or COVID-19?

Flu cases are increasing across campus. With the rise in respiratory illnesses, it’s important to keep yourself healthy – especially heading into finals. The flu, as well as illnesses like the common cold and COVID-19, are characterized as upper respiratory infections and are caused by many different viruses. While respiratory illnesses may be caused by different viruses, they often have similar symptoms.

Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Infections

  • cough
  • stuffy nose
  • yellow-green nasal discharge
  • runny nose
  • mucus in the throat
  • scratchy or sore throat
  • fatigue and weakness
  • cough, with or without mucus
  • fever above 101°F
  • muscle and body aches
  • mild headache

If you are experiencing symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, get tested for COVID-19 – even if you’re fully vaccinated.

In most cases, colds and the flu do not require a doctor’s care. There are no specific treatments for mild upper respiratory infections and the majority of people will recover on their own. Antibiotics will not treat a cold, COVID-19, or the flu. This is because antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, while common colds, COVID-19, and the flu are caused by viruses. Antibiotics will not help you when you have a viral infection. In most cases, the best only thing you can do for a bad cold is rest and soothe your symptoms.

It’s never too late to get a flu shot. Local pharmacies, including Walgreens near campus, and Public Health Madison Dane County are still offering flu shots. By getting vaccinated, you are helping ensure the flu is one less illness that can make you sick this winter.

What to do if you get the flu or have a cold

  • Get tested for COVID-19.
  • Take pain or fever medications.
  • Take a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough.
  • Drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated.
  • Stay home from class and work. If you must go out, wear a face mask to avoid spreading illness to others.

When to contact a clinician

  • Rapidly worsening symptoms.
  • Symptoms that last more than 10 to 14 days after trying self-care measures.
  • Ear pain.
  • A fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for more than two days (be sure to check with a thermometer).
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Persistent and severe sore throat, particularly if unable to swallow or open the mouth.
  • A stiff neck or sensitivity to bright lights.