COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — October is here, which also means the start of flu season.

According to the CDC, flu season typically circulates during the fall and winter, but flu activity begins to increase in October. As many people could come down with an illness within the next couple of months, it could be hard to tell if it’s the flu or COVID-19.

Dr. Ben Bring with OhioHealth said there are several ways to tell what could be causing your illness with flu or COVID testing.

“Reach out to your family doctor or health care provider and ask about any kind of screening you can do whether it’s a nasal swab for testing, or a home COVID test, that will help us differentiate between the two.”

Dr. Bring said flu symptoms typically occur quicker rather than COVID symptoms. In some cases, Dr. Bring said COVID symptoms can happen even later after exposure to the virus.

“COVID symptoms can sometimes not pop up until between 2 to 10 days, sometimes even up to 14 days after exposure,” said Dr. Bring. “Where as flu is a little bit more faster, between two to three days of exposure.”

The flu and COVID-19 do share a lot of similarities when it comes to symptoms.

“There’s a lot of overlapping symptoms between the two,” said Dr. Bring. “Things like fevers, chills, night sweats, just not feeling well, muscle aches.”

Many people could also be dealing with allergies as well, along with the spread of the flu and COVID. Dr. Bring said allergy symptoms are different from COVID or the flu. Those symptoms include itchy, watery eyes and a runny nose. Dr. Bring said antihistamines can also help treat those symptoms.

To avoid the viruses and to keep yourself and others as healthy as possible, Dr. Bring recommends the following:

  • Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • If you do get COVID, follow CDC guidelines and protocols for when returning back to work
  • Get your flu shot
  • Make sure to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep