Coronavirus symptoms update: Regular cold or COVID-19? Three ways to tell the difference
Coronavirus has become the defining topic of 2020 and it will dominate many aspects of our lives into 2021 and beyond. That is if a vaccine is not found anytime soon. COVID-19’s resemblance to a range of less serious conditions helps to partly explain its omnipresence in our lives.
Having cold-like symptoms immediately raises alarm bells and these concerns will only grow as the UK heads into flu season.
Upon further inspection, however, COVID-19 is an altogether different beast from the common cold and flu.
Part of the confusion stems from COVID-19’s respiratory makeup, according to Ben Littlewood-Hilston, Chief Clinical Officer at Doctorlink.
“The challenge with these upper respiratory infections is that all present with symptoms such as a cough, sore throat, aches and pain,” he said.
However, as Littlewood-Hilston explained, the predominating symptoms associated with COVID-19 can help to identify it.
“With a common cold most of the symptoms remain in the upper airway due to mucus such as a wet cough, blocked nose, sneezing,” he said.
With the flu, the whole body is affected with the added headaches, body pain, and fatigue, noted Littlewood-Hilston.
As he explained, COVID-19 has a unique presentation with fever, dry cough, and the loss in sense of taste and/or smell.
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Can I alleviate these symptoms?
There is currently no specific treatment for COVID-19, but you can often ease the symptoms at home until you recover.
According to the NHS, if you have a high temperature, it can help to:
- Get lots of rest
- Drink plenty of fluids (water is best) to avoid dehydration – drink enough so your pee is light yellow and clear
- Take paracetamol or ibuprofen if you feel uncomfortable
There have been some news reports of anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen, making coronavirus worse.
The Commission on Human Medicines has now confirmed there is no clear evidence that using ibuprofen to treat symptoms such as a high temperature makes coronavirus worse.
There are a number of self-tips that may provide relief for a persistent cough too.
“To help ease a cough, try having a teaspoon of honey. But do not give honey to babies under 12 months,” advises the NHS.
It adds: “If this does not help, you could contact a pharmacist for advice about cough treatments.”
If you are feeling breathless – another telltale sign of COVID-19 – the NHS recommends turning the heating down or opening a window.
While it may be tempting, the health body says to not use a fan as it may spread the virus.
I have just noticed symptoms – how should I respond?
According to official health advice, if you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus:
- Get a test to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.
- Stay at home and do not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.
Anyone you live with, and anyone in your support bubble, must also stay at home until you get your result.
A support bubble is where someone who lives alone (or just with their children) can meet people from one other household.
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