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COVID Symptoms Most Often Appear in This Order

How to tell if you have COVID or the flu, according to an emergency medicine physician.

Over 900,000 Americans have now died from COVID, which is a bleak new milestone the U.S. is facing. As the surge continues in many parts of the country, millions are becoming infected with Omicron—the highly contagious variant that's caused overcrowding in hospitals and a shortage of employees in several industries due to people calling out sick. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with K Health's Chief Diagnosis Officer Dr. Neil Brown and board-certified emergency medicine physician who explained how COVID symptoms usually appear and how to tell if you have the virus or the flu. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


COVID Symptoms Usually Appear in this Order


Dr. Brown says, "Fever, chills and headache are often early symptoms, but everyone is different. Some people have no symptoms, others start with muscle aches or fatigue, and some suddenly lose taste and smell."


This is the Usual Timeframe

Sick woman lying in bed with high fever.

According to Dr. Brown, "Generally speaking, symptoms tend to peak after several days and resolve by day 7-10. However, some people only have symptoms for a day or two, and some unfortunate folks are symptomatic for weeks or longer."

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How Omicron is Different From Other Variants

Doctor with blood sample of Covid-19 Omicron B.1.1.529 Variant and general data of covid-19 Coronavirus Mutations.

Dr. Brown explains, "Early data on the Omicron variant clearly shows it is much more contagious. It spreads rapidly through the population and leads to unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 cases. Antibodies generated by previous vaccination, or previous infections, are also significantly less effective at neutralizing Omicron, leading to lower efficacy of vaccines in preventing infection. Though the chance of infection with coronavirus has grown dramatically with the Omicron variant, infections are now often (but not always) milder."

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Medical Treatment

shortness of breath

Dr. Brown states, "If you experience any severe symptoms of a COVID-19 or the flu, seek urgent care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent chest pain and/or pressure
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin"

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Difference Between COVID and the Flu

Woman Trying to Sense Smell of a Candle

"One of the biggest difficulties in differentiating between a COVID-19 infection and the flu is their shared symptoms," Dr. Brown says. "However, there are some ways in which their symptoms differ. Some symptoms that can appear with both COVID-19 and the flu are cough, fever, shortness of breath, body aches, headache, fatigue, sore throat, vomiting and diarrhea. However, some symptoms of COVID-19 are extremely rare with the flu-like loss of taste or smell or a new rash. And lastly, symptoms that are common with the flu but seen less often with COVID-19 include a runny nose."

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Doctor Giving Older Woman Corona Virus Vaccine Injection In Hospital

Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather