Differences between COVID-19, flu and colds

As summer ends, we’re all apt to catch something. 


When summer ends, many of us start spending more time indoors. As if COVID-19 weren't giving us enough to deal with, we're all also at risk of coming down with other illnesses — allergies, the flu or a cold.  Even though we’re doing more to keep ourselves safe now than we may have in the past, we can still get sick. 

“We get a lot of questions from patients who wonder if their symptoms could be related to COVID-19,” said Efrem Castillo, MD, senior medical director, Optum. “Luckily, that's usually not the case.”

How can you tell the source of that sneeze, fever or achy feeling?


“It's impossible to tell by signs and symptoms alone,” Dr. Castillo said. “If you have new symptoms, get tested. Especially if you think you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19.”

When to get care for COVID-19

Look for the emergency warning signs for COVID-19. If any of these symptoms are present, get care right away:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Can't wake up or can't stay awake
  • Blue lips or face


Does Medicare cover a COVID-19 screening?

Medicare covers the lab tests for COVID-19. You pay no extra money. Medicare Advantage plans do, too. Check with your plan about what it covers and what the test costs.

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  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Medicare (medicare.gov/medicare-coronavirus)

The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.

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