A significant challenge in the coronavirus pandemic has been identifying the virus based on its symptoms. Many of the symptoms of COVID-19 are non-specific, meaning they overlap with those of other common illnesses, including the common cold, influenza, and the stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis). In fact, many individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 have reported that their earliest symptoms were stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps—all hallmark symptoms of the stomach flu.

The only way to know for sure whether you have coronavirus is with a COVID test. However, the presence of the following symptoms may indicate COVID-19 rather than viral gastroenteritis.

Loss of Taste and Smell

Not all people who contract COVID-19 will experience a loss of taste and smell. Still, this is among the most unique symptoms of the virus, so it’s one that you shouldn’t ignore. Even without significant nasal congestion, you may have difficulty discerning tastes and smells.

Chest Pains and Shortness of Breath

Gastroenteritis primarily affects the digestive system, so respiratory symptoms are not likely with the stomach flu. Specifically, symptoms like chest pains, dry cough, and shortness of breath are more likely indicative of COVID-19 than the stomach flu. However, individuals with the stomach flu may still experience a fever, headaches, or chills, which are more difficult to distinguish from COVID symptoms.

If you feel sick with any possible COVID symptoms, stay home and connect with MeMD to visit a medical provider via telehealth. We can help you manage your symptoms at home and write a referral if a COVID test is required.


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