How to know if you have the Flu, Strep, or Covid

It’s that time of year. Sickness is running rampant through our schools and community. With covid, strep, flu out there, how do you know if you have one of these illnesses vs a cold or a stomach bug? The symptoms overlap quite a bit from illness to illness. Let’s look at them to see the similarities.


The flu signs and symptoms often hit hard and fast. Most of the time from the point you are exposed to the flu until the time you start showing symptoms is about two days but it can happen anytime in the 1-4 day window. The typical symptoms include:

  • Fever or feverish chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach issues like vomiting and diarrhea

Everyone doesn’t experience the flu the same way. Even in your household, different people could have different symptoms. 

To diagnose someone with the flu, a rapid test can be given. Then your doctor can prescribe Tamiflu or another medication to shorten the length of your illness.

Strep Throat

The incubation period for strep throat is usually about 2-5 days. This bacterial infection caused by streptococcal bacteria is most common in children and can make your throat feel sore and scratchy. If left untreated, it can cause heart damage. Everyone doesn’t experience the exact same symptoms but those do include: 

  • Throat pain that starts quickly
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes white dots and/or streaks on tonsils
  • Tiny red spots at the back of the roof of the mouth
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Vomiting in young children
  • Body aches

If you show signs of strep throat, your doctor will first do a rapid strep test. This takes a throat swab and quickly shows if strep A bacteria is causing the illness. If that comes back negative, your doctor might recommend a throat culture that takes time to see if strep A bacteria grows from a swab. This test is a bit more thorough when the quick test sometimes misses.

Once you have been diagnosed with strep, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to help fight the illness. 


Covid symptoms also can look similar to the previously mentioned illnesses. The wide range of symptoms include:

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

If you think you might have Covid, you can get tested in a medical office or even do your test at home. If your test comes back positive, most people can treat the symptoms at home with over the counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If you are in a high risk category or experiencing breathing problems, seek medical care. There are antiviral medications available for use as long as you start treatment within the first 5-7 days of initial symptoms. 

If you or someone in your family is feeling sick and you are unsure if it is a stomach bug, cold, flu, strep, or covid, please seek medical care. Healthstar Physicians has three after hours walk-in clinics to support your family when you get sick at inopportune times and need medical care. Our medical team is part of your community and because of that we are Near You, For You.