How to spot the difference between coronavirus and a common cold

AS we head into the winter months, most Brits are bound to have a sniffle here and a cough there.

With the coronavirus still lingering it's important to know the difference between a common cold and the killer bug.

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Doctors have claimed that they are getting "hundreds of calls" from patients worrying that they have caught the coronavirus – when actually – they just have a cold.

The government has ramped up its testing programme in recent months, but experts have said the so-called "world beating" Test & Trace programme"doesn't work" when cases of the virus are too high.

Just yesterday it was revealed that the Covid death toll has doubled in a week as 19,790 test positive.

High case numbers, such as the one above could mean that the system is ill-equipped when it comes to giving people the correct advise.

Documents from Sage, the government's Scientific Advisory Board, revealed that many people believed the system was ineffective and did not trust their data would be held safely.

Even more shockingly, only half of the people in the study knew what the key symptoms of coronavirus and one in five said they would stay at home if they started to get sick.

But what is the difference between a cold and Covid and how can you spot the difference?

Dr Belinda Griffiths from The Fleet Street Clinic in London said the fact that some symptoms of Covid are similar to a cold is "sending people into a panic".

The common cold

Dr Griffiths said symptoms of a common cold include: sneezing, running nose and a sore throat.

In most cases of a cold – Dr Griffiths said you won't develop a high temperature – which is one of the NHS's key Covid symptoms to look out for.

Dr Griffiths said: "In most cases, you will not develop a temperature.

"Fever chills and muscle aches rarely occur in the common cold, but can happen.

"With a common cold you can usually expect to see an improvement after less than a week, although this can vary."


The NHS states that there are three key coronavirus symptoms to look out for which are a new persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and/or smell.

While these are the three main symptoms, various studies have found that those who present with the virus may also suffer symptoms such as headache and fatigue.

Dr Griffiths said that when it comes to Covid-19, the differentiating symptoms from those of a common cold will help you when it comes to what steps and precautions to take.

She said: "These symptoms include the loss of smell and taste, a persistent temperature of greater than 37.8C, General malaise and fatigue, possibly with muscle pains and headaches.

"One of the most common signs of Covid-19 is a new persistent cough.

"Should your cough be producing coloured mucus or if you are experiencing shortness of breath this should always warrant a medical check, but especially if you suffer from Asthma or Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)".


Kids and Covid

While adults are known to suffer from the above symptoms – experts at King's College London previously said that kids had different symptoms to adults.

Dr Griffiths said it should be easy to spot whether or not your child has Covid-19 or a cold and kids who contract the coronavirus are "more likely to present with diarrhoea than adults".

She said: "If your child is acutely unwell and is displaying the above symptoms then never delay in seeking medical help.

"This also goes for patients of any age with a persistent productive cough, who is short of breath, with or without a temperature.

"If you are experiencing any of the above do not delay in asking for medical opinion."

Dr Griffiths said that if you have sneezing, or a runny nose, then you can rest assured that you do not have Covid and you don't need to be tested.

Top coronavirus symptoms in kids

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London said children are suffering from around five symptoms that are not consistent with those adults are experiencing.

Experts say parents should look out for the following symptoms in their kids.

  1. Fatigue
  2. Headache
  3. Fever
  4. Sore throat
  5. Loss of appetite

She added: "To sum up, if you have a new continuous cough, a persistent fever, loss of sense of taste and smell as well as a headache you should be tested for Covid-19 as soon as possible."

The World Health Organisation (WHO) listed aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, headache, loss of taste or smell, a rash on skin and discolouration of fingers or toes as less common symptoms of coronavirus.

However, some people who become infected do not develop any symptoms and do not feel unwell, the WHO said, and they can still transmit the virus to those around them.

Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure and loss of speech or movement are the most serious symptoms, according to the WHO, which requires immediate medical attention.

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