ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — As coronavirus case numbers top 1 million in the Sunshine State, many people are hoping to stop the spread of COVID-19 this holiday season.

What You Need To Know

  • With flu season picking up, many wonder whether they have influenza or COVID

  • Some COVID patients report extreme fatigue

  • Loss of taste, small could call  for coronavirus tests

  • Doctors are seeing both flu and COVID patients now

But flu season is also getting into full swing, leaving many to wonder whether a cough or the sniffles could be the flu, allergies, or coronavirus. 

“We were very lucky, very lucky,” coronavirus survivors Dusty and Robert Beam said. 

It didn’t take long for coronavirus to find its way into Robert and Dusty Beam’s home. The couple hosted a St. Patrick's Day party in mid-March, at the start of the pandemic and before travel or group restrictions. They said they believe someone in attendance left both of them sick. 

“This was like on the 16th of March. We didn’t get our first symptom until a whole week later," Dusty Beam said. 

"And the symptoms were we had a low-grade fever, maybe about 100.1, [and we were] lethargic," Robert Beam said, nodding. 

"Very tired, that was key,” Dusty added.

The Beams say their symptoms felt a lot like influenza. But antibody tests like those that come with the plasma donations they make regularly now indicated after they recovered from the illness that they'd had COVID. The presence of those antibodies means they can donate the essential convalescent plasma to help others recover.

“It felt pretty similar, but I think the key is the fatigue,” Dusty said. “I mean, to get off the couch and walk across the room to the refrigerator or wherever, it was an ordeal. Maybe not an ordeal, but I mean, you felt it,” Dusty said. 

Now in what’s traditionally just flu season, doctors are treating both.

“I actually had a couple of patients today with coronavirus,” Orlando Health family medical physician Dr. Monique Dieuvil said.  “We treat it virtually.”

Both flu and coronavirus can bring fever, nasal congestion, coughing, and sneezing so differentiating the two can be tricky, Dieuvil said.

“I would say Day 1 of sneezing, coughing, do not panic. Let’s see how the symptoms sort of play out,” Dieuvil said. “With coronavirus, people typically have the issue with taste and smell around Day 2, Day 3 and then, develop the other symptoms. If you develop a lack of taste, a lack of smell, think coronavirus, and get tested right away."

With flu, Dieuvil said, you’ll typically feel better in three or four days. Coronavirus is less predictable, hitting adults harder than children and presenting light to no symptoms in some, while causing severe sickness in others. 

“Especially with the holidays coming up, if you’re sick, please stay home,” Dieuvil said. 

With months to go until there's a vaccine widely available, the Beams said they plan to keep donating plasma to help others recover, too. 

“We were lucky," Dusty said. 

"But we’re hoping the plasma is helping the people that have it,” Robert said. 

According to Dieuvil, symptoms of the influenza include:

  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Body aches
  • Fever
  • Feeling better in roughly 3 to 4 days after getting sick
  • Influenza can progress to pneumonia, but it's unlikely.

Symptoms of coronavirus include:

  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Loss of taste
  • Loss of smell
  • Palpitations. 
  • COVID symptoms can extend to pneumonia or patients needing a ventilator

Symptoms of allergies include:

  • Sneezing
  • Sniffling
  • Coughing
  • Watery or itchy eyes

With children, a fever that's consistently at more than 100.4 degrees that won't go away with Tylenol could be an indication of COVID-19. 

To prevent sickness, doctors recommend that people wear a mask, wash hands diligently with soap and warm water, and social distance.