Here’s how to tell if you have coronavirus or flu - the symptoms to look for

Do you know the difference between symptoms? (Photo: Shutterstock)Do you know the difference between symptoms? (Photo: Shutterstock)
Do you know the difference between symptoms? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Health experts have warned people should “not be complacent” over the flu, after new research has shown the dire consequences of a co-infection with coronavirus.

Officials have warned that both flu and Covid-19 could be circulating at the same time and urged people who are eligible to get vaccinated, particularly with winter approaching.

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The flu vaccination programme has been expanded this year to allow more people than ever to be eligible, including those who are aged 55 and over in Scotland, or 50 and over in the rest of the UK.

But how do you tell the difference between a flu infection and coronavirus? Here are all the symptoms you need to look for.

What are the symptoms of flu?

According to the NHS, flu symptoms come on very quickly and are very similar to a cold, although they tend to be more severe. Common symptoms can include:

a sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or abovean aching bodyfeeling tired or exhausteda dry cougha sore throata headachedifficulty sleepingloss of appetitediarrhoea or tummy painfeeling sick and being sick

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The symptoms are similar for children, but they can also get pain in their ear and appear less active.

How do symptoms compare to coronavirus?

Some symptoms of flu are very similar to coronavirus, which can make it difficult to tell them apart.

The NHS advises that you should get tested for coronavirus if you have any one of the three main symptoms, and stay at home until you get the result. Anyone you live with, or anyone in your support bubble, must also stay at home until you get your result.

The main symptoms include:

a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

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Most people who have coronavirus experience at least one of these three symptoms.

Who is eligible for a flu vaccine?

The full list of people who are currently eligible for the free NHS flu programme includes people who:

are 65 and over (including those who'll be 65 by 31 March 2021)have certain health conditionsare pregnantare in a long-stay residential carereceive a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sicklive with someone who's at high risk from coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list)are frontline health or social care workers

This year, the vaccination programme will also be extended to include the following groups:

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people who were required to shield from coronavirus and anyone they live withchildren aged 11people aged between 50 and 64, or 55 to 64 in Scotland

GP surgeries will focus on the highest risk groups first, ahead of those who are aged over 50 and in the fit and healthy range, who will be vaccinated later in the year.

The NHS will get in contact with all those who are eligible, and you can arrange an appointment for the jab with your GP or local pharmacy.

In Scotland, the flu vaccine is being administered differently this year and may not be at your GP surgery as normal. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get your vaccine at:

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healthcare settings, such as GP practices, hospitals or community pharmaciescommunity venues, such as town halls, village halls, sports halls and secondary schoolsdrive-through or walk-through clinics

For more information, visit

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, The Scotsman.