Covid vs cold symptoms: Have you got coronavirus or is it just a bad cold?

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The UK’s official list of COVID-19 symptoms has been expanded to include nine new signs of coronavirus. However, many of these are now parallel with official symptoms used to determine a cold.

Among the UK Health Security Agency’s new official symptoms are feeling tired or exhausted, a blocked or runny nose and a sore throat.

The updated list follows a sudden spike in new COVID-19 cases, with the figure soaring to 225,992 as of March 21, 2022.

A new Covid subvariant Omicron XE has also been discovered in the UK, thought to be linked to the high number of Covid cases.

Much like Omicron, many of the symptoms of Omicron XE are believed to be much like a bad cold.

And with free testing axed for the majority in the UK now, it might be difficult to tell which you are experiencing.

What are the main symptoms of a coronavirus infection?

Initially, the NHS listed the main symptoms of COVID-19 as:

  • a high temperature or shivering – a high temperature means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

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However, in recent weeks this list has been updated to include:

  • shortness of breath
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • an aching body
  • a headache
  • a sore throat
  • a blocked or runny nose
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling sick or being sick

The NHS notes: “The symptoms are very similar to symptoms of other illnesses, such as colds and flu.”

What are the main symptoms of a cold?

According to the NHS, the main symptoms of a cold “come on gradually”.

These 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

How can you find out if you have COVID-19?

If you have been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus, and then develop symptoms, this is a good sign you may have contracted the virus from them.

However, the only way to know for certain is by taking a test.

As of April 1, in England, free lateral flow tests are no longer generally available to members of the public.

Most people with symptoms are no longer entitled to free PCR tests either.

Only people who fit into specific criteria, such as NHS staff or hospital patients, are permitted to order free tests.

However, tests can now be purchased from a number of pharmacies and supermarkets across the country.

Lloyds Pharmacy, for example, is selling single tests for £1.89 or a pack of five for £9.29.

Tesco Pharmacy has also confirmed it will be selling lateral flow test kits in 1,500 stores across the UK, with prices starting at £2.

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