How to spot the difference between coronavirus and a common cold

THE POTENTIAL rationing of Covid tests across the UK has meant that many have been turned away from tests sites as swabs are prioritised for people with acute clinical needs.

People across the country have been turning up to sites with suspected coronavirus symptoms and Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted that tests could be rationed for those who need them most.

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This means that kids who have returned to the classroom could be turned away if they need to get tested.

Kids and parent are likely to be at the back of the queue and earlier this week no tests were available in 46 out of 48 of the nation’s worst hotspots as the fiasco spiralled.

To stop you travelling or ordering a test unnecessarily, it's important to know the difference between a common cold and Covid.

The government previously stated it will provide 30 million flu jabs in order to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus in a bid to keep the NHS functioning this winter.

Data from the Office for National Statistics also found this week that the flu is killing more people than the coronavirus.

It comes as infection rates of Covid-19 continue to soar in the UK with 4,000 people having tested positive for the virus yesterday in the biggest 24-hour jump in more than 18 weeks.

Officials say the rise in cases is down to increased testing.

The number of people taking a test has increased dramatically since May – with the NHS Track and Trace system meaning those who are tested are more likely to have been exposed.

The testing system has been slammed and the government yesterday admitted that it does not have the required amount of tests to meet demand.

Millions of frontline staff have been urged to do "their bit" and get the flu jab – but how can you spot the difference between a cold, flu and Covid-19?

Spot the difference

Anyone can be infected by coronavirus and while older Brits and those with underlying health problems are at greatest risk, it is vital everyone knows the signs and symptoms to watch out for.

Experts warned there is bound to be some nervousness around the virus and people need to be able to distinguish between whether or not they just have a sniffle or if they have contracted Covid-19.

Chief medical officer at DoctorLink, Ben Littlewood-Hilson said older people really need to look after themselves during this period.

"It’s important to remember that a common cold is a coronavirus – just not Covid-19.

"Other strains of coronavirus are actually quite common, but they have milder symptoms."

The most common symptoms of the coronavirus are:

  • new continuous cough, and/or a high temperature
  • loss of taste and smell

For most people, the virus will cause a mild infection.

While some patients may also experience shortness of breath, experts have warned that there are a myriad of symptoms associated with the virus.

Scientists have also said that symptoms in children are different and said parents should look out for a loss of appetite.

Data from King's College London revealed that 52 per cent of school aged kids who tested positive for virus did not log classic adult symptoms.

The data is based on analysis from 198 children who tested positive and around 15,800 negative tests.

Of the 198 children who tested positive 55 per cent suffered from fatigue.

The second top symptom was a headache with 53 per cent suffering, fever is next with 49 per cent suffering with this, 38 per cent suffered with a sore throat and 35 per cent suffered with a loss of appetite.

It also found that 15 per cent of kids who test positive also present with an unusual skin rash.



How is it spread?

Covid-19 is a new disease and as a result scientists are still working to fully understand it.

Since the start of the crisis experts have found various treatments for the virus but a vaccine has still not been developed.

Experts believe it is spread via droplets produced when you cough or sneeze, as well as via touching and shaking hands.

When those infected droplets land on surfaces or body parts, a healthy person can pick up the virus and become infected.

How does Covid-19 differ from flu or a common cold?

The symptoms of the coronavirus are similar to other respiratory illnesses.

However, with flu, symptoms are likely to come on much quicker.

The NHS states the signs of flu include:

  • a sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above
  • an aching body
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • a dry cough
  • a sore throat
  • a headache
  • difficulty sleeping
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea or tummy pain
  • feeling sick or being sick

However, research by experts at King's College University found that several symptoms that are consistent with the flu and also consistent with the coronavirus.

Scientists said patients on the Covid Symptom Tracker app have been reporting a wide rage of symptoms from confusion, headaches, muscle pains and fatigue.

Earlier in the year American health officials also added diarrhoea to its list of confirmed coronavirus symptoms.


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

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of appetite

In May the Centre for Disease Control added nausea, diarrhoea and a runny nose to its list of symptoms.

Dr Ravi Tomar, a GP at the Portland Medical Practice in Croydon said the common cold has always presented the same way in each yearly cycle.

He added that the majority of the illness effects the upper airways and that it was less common to have body aches if you have a cold.

But with the flu, he said symptoms generally effect the whole body.

He did however stress that if you think you have the coronavirus you should seek medical help and a test.

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