How to Differentiate COVID, Flu, RSV or Strep Symptoms?


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the three common respiratory viruses, such as COVID, RSV and flu, occur during the fall and winter seasons.

The Hill has created the following table that compares the illnesses at a glance, using “information from Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”.

SymptomCOVID-19RSVFluStrep
Loss of taste/smellSometimesRareRareNot common
Trouble breathingSometimes (can be severe)CommonNot commonNot common
CoughCommon (usually dry)CommonCommon (can be severe)Not common
SneezingNot commonCommonRareNot common
FeverCommonCommonCommonCommon
Runny/stuffy noseSometimesCommonSometimesNot common
Sore throatSometimesCommonSometimesCommon
FatigueSometimesSometimesCommonSometimes
HeadachesSometimesRareCommonSometimes
Body achesSometimesRareCommonSometimes
Diarrhea/nausea/vomitingSometimesRareSometimesSometimes
Information from Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The Hill explains their general symptoms like this:

  • COVID-19 symptoms often start slow, then escalate quickly, according to Children’s National. Most people see symptoms resolve in about a week, but some can feel lingering effects for weeks or even months.
  • RSV symptoms can also start mild before getting more serious. Most people feel better in a week or two, according to the CDC, but young infants and the elderly are most vulnerable. In some cases, they may need to be hospitalized to be treated.
  • “The flu, unlike the other two viruses, usually comes on abruptly. For the majority of people who get it, they’ll feel better in a few days. However, some people develop complications, such as pneumonia, and therefore experience more severe illness.