'I have the flu, COVID-19 and I'm 33 weeks pregnant. Here's what it's really like.'

It starts with the cough. You know the one. 

At first, you think you might just have something caught in your throat. You drink some water. More coughing. The water must have gone down the wrong way. Then there are two coughs. You're out in public. You smile politely at people walking past as if to say "don't worry I promise it's not COVID", but at this stage you're not so sure. Is this COVID? Surely not again. 

From there, the cough progresses.

Mine developed into the kind of dry cough where you can't quite catch your breath. That night I laid in bed coughing all night long and probably only slept for an hour or two. But I'm also in my third trimester of pregnancy, so that's not entirely unusual. 

After two days of this cough, a splitting headache, fevers (at least I think it was a fever... again, when you're pregnant you're running pretty hot anyway) and general fatigue, I booked in to see my GP. I did a COVID test before I left for my appointment, as I'd been doing for the last few days, and still it was reading negative. 

At the appointment, he did a swab and told me to keep up the fluids, rest, and clarified what medication I could and couldn't take. In short, Panadol is just about all you're allowed. 

In the early hours of the next morning, as I lay in bed in a cold sweat, coughing so hard I thought I might break a rib, I received my results. 

I indeed had COVID for a second time. And I also had Influenza B. I had somehow managed to contract both at once – as if being 33 weeks pregnant wasn't hard enough. 


Watch: The signs to use when talking about COVID. Post continues after video. 

Video via Mamamia.

During 2020 and 2021, when much of Australia was locked down for the winter months to curb the spread of COVID, cases of influenza dropped dramatically. 

But then came 2022. Our approach to mask-wearing, hand sanitising and isolating when sick became increasingly lax, and while it wasn't the first season people began contracting the flu and COVID at the same time, it certainly became more widespread.  

My doctor prescribed an antiviral medication used to treat influenza A and influenza B, which if taken in the first 48 hours, can make the symptoms less severe and can shorten recovery time by a day or two. 

But my symptoms were about to get a lot worse.

The cough became more chesty, sinus pain seemed to fill my whole head, I had a sore throat and my eyes were stinging so I couldn't read or watch anything. Interestingly, however, the worst symptom was the insomnia. And I don't mean I had a bit of trouble sleeping. I mean for seven nights I didn't go to sleep until about five in the morning, where I'd manage to sleep for little windows at a time. I probably got three, maybe four hours of sleep all up a night. I vaguely remembered this from the first time I got COVID. Again, this feature was part of a very fun game called 'is this symptom the result of COVID, pregnancy or the flu?'.


Apart from being miserable and really unwell, I was also anxious. 

Contracting influenza and COVID at the same time put me at a higher risk of additional infections, like pneumonia. It also meant my immune system was taking a beating at a time when I was already (as any pregnant person would know) rundown. Some research from overseas also suggests a COVID-19 diagnosis during pregnancy can increase the likelihood of premature birth, although my midwife assured me this wasn't something they'd observed in their practice, and to just make sure I'm keeping an eye on my baby's movements and anything unusual. 

Despite how awful I was feeling, my baby seemed to be living her best life. She was moving as much as usual, and ensuring that whenever I almost did get to sleep, she gave my bladder a good kick to wake me up. My midwife reminded me that while I was sick, my baby wasn't. She was very much protected, and hopefully, she'd be born with a bunch of antibodies. 

But I keep thinking back to that cough.

You see, when I got home that day, I instinctively took a COVID test, and when it was negative I thought "nothing to worry about". I was, I'm ashamed to admit, considering going to work the next day. 


When I got those results from my GP, he was clear that it wasn't the COVID he was so much worried about, but rather the influenza. That was the infection that required more urgent treatment. 

After three years of living in the shadow of COVID, many of us are still living with a pandemic mindset. Testing positive to COVID means isolation for five days. Plans cancelled. You've been red-carded. 

With influenza, because there aren't at-home tests, and most of us might not end up at the doctor for a swab, we just go about our lives, waiting for the cough to clear up. 

Still, there is more power in saying "sorry, I can't, COVID", than there is in saying "sorry, I can't, the flu", when the latter can do a whole lot more damage. 

After eight days, I finally feel like I've turned a corner. The cough has mostly subsided, the sinus pain has passed, and really I just have a runny nose. 

But one thing I'm sure of is that you do not want the flu and COVID at the same time. It's so bad. 

If you've got a cough, a fever, a sore throat, stay at home. You don't need a positive COVID test to get you permission. 

Image: Supplied.

Calling all internet users! Take our survey now and go in the running to win a $100 gift voucher!