This Is The Difference Between A Cold And Covid

Brits are being advised to stay home if they've got the sniffles as Omicron continues to spread.
Got the sniffles? It might be Covid.
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Got the sniffles? It might be Covid.

Can’t stop sneezing? Got the sniffles? The usual signs of a cold might actually be Covid, says the top scientist from the Zoe Covid tracker app.

Professor Tim Spector said more than a quarter of the colds in recent times turned out to be Covid-19, so it’s better to act with caution.

He advised staying home and taking a test for people who had symptoms of a cold.

Speaking to Times Radio, Professor Spector said that official signs of coronavirus such as loss of smell, taste and a persistent cough are being seen less now, with newer symptoms taking hold.

“We’re estimating that somewhere between one in three and one in four colds are actually due to Covid,” he said. “And so that’s quite a high rate of people that are currently not even bothered to get a lateral flow test, or getting a PCR test, going to parties and spreading it around.”

While the government hasn’t imposed any sanctions on going to the office, or heading to festive events, Professor Spector said: “We should really be encouraging people not to come in to the office, not to go to that Christmas party if they’re feeling unwell.

“Take a test and then, when the symptoms subside, then they can come out — it doesn’t have to be 10 days but just those first few days are probably the most crucial.”

This would also stop the spread of Omicron, he said.

“We want to tell people that if you don’t feel well that day, don’t go out, don’t go to work, work from home, because the start of that sniffle, the start of that sore throat, that headache could be a mild dose of Covid that is just breaking through your vaccine.

“So I think everyone needs to be much more aware of a whole range of symptoms and not wait for the loss of smell or taste which may never come, not wait for fever, not wait for that persistent cough.”

So, how do you tell the difference between a cold and Covid?

Cold symptoms come on gradually and, according to the NHS, can include:

  • a blocked or runny nose
  • a sore throat
  • headaches
  • muscle aches
  • coughs
  • sneezing
  • a raised temperature
  • pressure in your ears and face
  • loss of taste and smell.

Confusingly, traditional symptoms of Covid have been:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

But Omicron (and Delta) symptoms, as well as symptoms of Covid after getting double-vaccinated can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Sneezing
  • Sore through
  • Mild cough
  • Nasal congestion.

Last week, Dr Angelique Coetzee, a private practitioner and chair of the South African Medical Association, told press how this mutation of coronavirus differs from the original.

The main indicators were fatigue, body aches and headaches, she said. Dr Coetzee also said that patients, thus far, did not report losing their taste or smell as with the Delta variant, and there hadn’t been a drop in oxygen levels as seen in previous variants.

However, government ministers are still refusing to impose any further restrictions.

On Monday, health secretary Sajid Javid said: “Covid-19 likes the colder darker days that winter brings, there’s plenty of guidance there and I would encourage people to go ahead with [events], whether it’s nativity plays or Christmas parties, but just continue to follow the guidance that was always there”.

But if you have the sniffles, it’s a good idea to get tested before you head out again.