Cold, Flu and COVID-19 Symptoms

Monday, October 12, 2020

As flu season begins and the COVID-19 pandemic continues, health is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Before jumping to conclusions, it’s important to recognize the differences between cold, flu, and COVID-19 symptoms in order to seek out proper medical attention and treatment.

Differentiating between a cold and the flu is generally easy. A clear distinction between the two is that the flu usually comes on very suddenly, while a cold is typically gradual. Additionally, there are many symptoms that are likely to occur when someone has the flu, such as fever, chills, and headaches, that are rare with the common cold.



In contrast, it is difficult to determine whether someone has the flu or COVID-19 based on symptoms alone. Symptoms like fever, chills, and headaches are also commonly reported for COVID-19. Therefore, diagnostic testing is the best way to determine which illness is present when related symptoms occur.

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to sever illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you are exhibiting mild symptoms of COVID-19, such as those listed above, please visit your nearest COVID-19 testing location.

It’s important to note that mild symptoms of COVID-19 do not warrant an emergency room or physician’s office visit. This is only necessary if you are having severe symptoms such as:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

If you are experiencing these symptoms, please seek emergency care immediately.

MIT covers COVID-19 visits and testing at 100%. Standard deductible, out-of-pocket, and/or co-pay requirements will still apply to any inpatient or outpatient treatment or procedures for COVID-19. MIT members can also access urgent care services through MUSC Virtual Urgent Care. (Include contact information).

To prevent flu contraction, please get your flu shot! MIT covers the flu shot at any physician’s office in network. Flu shots are not covered at free flu shot clinics held outside of a physician’s office or at any pharmacies. More details on covered vaccinations for adults and children can be found in your SCMA MIT Summary Plan Document on page 20-21:

Need to be evaluated by a provider but your doctor’s office is closed and the ER is your only choice? Find out how you and your family can receive care in minutes from an MUSC provider and avoid the costly emergency room visit. Learn more about MUSC Health Virtual Care