Differences between COVID-19, flu and colds

As summer ends, many of us might catch something. 


When fall sends many of us indoors more often, we spend more time with others in closed and public spaces. Since COVID-19, we’re doing more to keep ourselves safe. But we still can come down with other things such as allergies, the flu or a cold.   

“We get a lot of questions from people who are worried they have COVID-19,” said Efrem Castillo, MD, senior medical director, Optum. “Luckily, that's usually not the case.”

But how do you know what's causing 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 for COVID-19. This is especially important if you think you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19.”

When to get care for COVID-19

If you have any of these warning signs for COVID-19, 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


Will Medicare cover COVID-19 tests?

Medicare covers the lab tests for COVID-19. You pay no extra money. Medicare Advantage plans do, too. You pay nothing extra. 

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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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