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Flu, Strep, Pneumonia, and COVID-19: What’s the Difference?

Can you tell the difference between flu vs. strep vs. COVID-19? Cold and flu season is in full swing, and COVID-19 is still lingering. Knowing what symptoms to look for when you first start feeling sick can help. Read on to learn the key factors to consider when determining which illness you have.

Strep vs. COVID-19 and Other Illnesses


Strep throat is a bacterial infection that can cause severe throat pain and scratchiness. Strep will not typically include other cold and flu like symptoms, like a runny nose or cough. Strep throat can be specifically tested for and is easily treated with antibiotics.


COVID-19 is a viral illness caused by the novel coronavirus that produces many symptoms including fever, couch, aches, sore throat, congestion and others. If you have cold & flu-like symptoms combined with shortness of breath or the loss of taste or smell, it might be a good idea to get tested with a PCR or antigen test.


The flu is another viral illness that is similar to the common cold but much more severe symptoms. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference because the flu affects your nose, throat, and lungs and has many of the same symptoms as a cold. The flu is commonly diagnosed with a rapid antigen or diagnostic test.


Pneumonia is a secondary infection in the lungs that can cause high fever, chest pain, difficulty breathing and cough. It’s usually caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses like COVID-19. Pneumonia is usually diagnosed with a chest X-ray to look for inflammation in the lungs and is commonly treated with antibiotics.

Pneumonia vs. Flu vs. Strep vs. COVID-19: Seven Questions to Ask

1. What’s Your Temperature?

Flu, strep throat, pneumonia, and COVID-19 all have fever as a symptom. A cold does not. However, if you have COVID-19, your fever and other symptoms may take longer to appear. This is why pneumonia vs. coronavirus testing is so important. If it’s pneumonia, you may notice sweating and shivering.

2. Are You Hurting?

Muscle pain, body aches, and fatigue are signs you should google, “flu and COVID-19 testing near me.” A cold usually doesn’t cause these symptoms. Pneumonia can sometimes cause chest pain.

3. Are Your Symptoms Coming on Fast?

You felt great yesterday. Today, you feel like you got run over by a truck. If that sounds like your situation, it’s likely a cold, flu, or something else. COVID-19 symptoms tend to appear gradually.

4. Are You Nauseous?

Nausea and vomiting don’t usually present with strep, COVID-19, or a cold. If you’re nauseas or vomiting, you likely have the flu or another type of viral or bacterial infection.

5. Are You Coughing Frequently and Forcefully?

Coughing is a symptom of a cold, the flu, pneumonia, and COVID-19. So, how can you tell whether it’s flu or pneumonia vs. COVID-19? Colds, flu, and pneumonia all tend to cause a productive cough with phlegm. COVID-19 causes a dry, unproductive cough. Pneumonia as a secondary infection from COVID-19 sometimes presents with rapid, shallow breathing, fast heartbeat, and dizziness.

6. How Long Is Your Illness Lasting?

Colds last about a week to 10 days. The flu can last longer. If it’s something more serious, like pneumonia or COVID-19, the symptoms may worsen over time. Pneumonia vs. coronavirus testing can be helpful for providing peace of mind.

7. Are Medications Helping?

You’ve developed a tried-and-true regimen to fight off colds and other minor illness. Yet, the arsenal in your medicine cabinet doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help your symptoms. This is a sign you could have COVID-19. Get tested as soon as you can.

Take Extra Care If…

You’re in Your Golden Years

When sorting out whether it’s strep, the flu, a cold, or pneumonia vs. COVID-19, consider your age. Elderly folks are 23 times as likely to die from COVID-19 than people under the age of 65. If you’re up in years and noticing the first signs of illness, a quick search for, “flu and COVID-19 testing near me” is your best bet.

You Have Underlying Conditions

People with cancer, diabetes, and other conditions are more threatened by the novel coronavirus. Testing can help you figure out whether it’s flu vs. strep vs. COVID-19.

You’re Experiencing Secondary Infections

If you notice other infections, like ear infections, visit a medical professional to figure out what’s going on. The presence of a secondary infection could make it harder for your body to fight COVID-19, the flu, or any other illness.

How Can I Avoid Getting Sick?

You can help prevent pneumonia and other illnesses by:

  • Practicing good hygiene, using hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol, and disinfecting surfaces.
  • Avoiding cigarette smoke.
  • Ensuring you’re taking good care of yourself and addressing any underlying conditions.
  • Not touching your face, eyes, or mouth.
  • Wearing a mask in public.
  • Steering clear of anyone who is sick, whether it’s strep vs. COVID-19.
  • Visiting MD Now for testing and vaccinations.

Flu? Pneumonia? Strep? COVID-19? Know NOW.

When symptoms arise, seek care from the physician-led team at MD Now. We can quickly test and diagnose illnesses including seasonal flu, pneumonia, strep, and COVID-19 and provide the best treatment. Our 110+ state-of-the-art clinics accept walk-ins during all hours of operation.

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