Do you have a cold or Covid? Here's how to tell the difference

Do you have a cold or Covid? Here's how to tell the difference

In the days before the pandemic, if you had a sniff and a headache, you can consider it a common cold and proceed normally. But during the cold and flu season, how can you be sure it's cold and not Covid-19?

The bottom line is - without a test, you can not. Because while the typical symptoms of a cold are headache, sore throat and runny nose, these are already some of the main indicators of Covid.

On Thursday, December 23, ZOE Covid researchers warned that those with sore throats, runny noses and headaches - all symptoms of a common cold - were more likely to have the Omicron variant.

With the rapid spread of Omicron cases, Professor Tim Spector, who helped find the Covid ZOE app, told the BBC that anyone with these symptoms should have a Covid test. More than 106,000 people tested positive for the virus in the 24 hours to December 22, while the weekly average increased by 58.9 percent.

"The number of new symptomatic cases has erupted over the past week," said Professor Tim Spector, who helped find the Covid ZOE app.

"For most people, a positive case of Omicron will feel much more like the common cold, starting with a sore throat, runny nose and headache."

He added: "You just have to ask a friend who has recently been positive to find out. "We have to urgently change public messages to save lives."

Most coronaviruses, like the common cold, cause mild infection of the upper respiratory tract and produce relatively minor symptoms.

People who contract Covid suffer from respiratory symptoms that can cause coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and fever. Infection can also cause pneumonia, kidney failure and in severe cases death.

Christina Marriott, executive director of the Royal Society for Public Health, says: "Growing evidence shows that people who have received two doses of the vaccine usually have less severe symptoms, such as headaches, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and loss. of smell.

"It is important that people who are fully vaccinated stay alert for cold-like symptoms and get tested for living or working with people who are at higher risk for the disease."

Although the main symptoms of Covid that the government tells us about are a high fever, a new, persistent cough, and a loss or change in your sense of smell or taste, the Delta variant, which is still currently the dominant type of Covid in the UK, there are different symptoms.

The ZovE Covid Symptom Study, which is funded by the UK government, has identified high symptoms associated with Covid and says they vary slightly depending on whether you have been vaccinated or not.


Although headaches are a lesser-known symptom of Covid, they are one of the earliest signs, according to the ZOE study, and are more common than the classic symptoms of cough, fever and loss of smell.

The study found that Covid headaches tend to be moderate to severe pain, can be "pulsating", "pressing" or "knife", appear on both sides of the head and not in one area, may last longer more than three days and tend to be resistant to common sedatives.

Nasal discharge

Last winter, the ZOE study found that runny nose was the second most common symptom reported after headaches, with nearly 60 percent of people who tested positive for Covid with olfactory loss also reported having runny nose.

But now the data show that disease prevalence is the most significant factor. So when Covid levels are high, the chances that the nose leak is due to the virus are also high.

The study also notes that when Covid levels are low, nasal discharge is less likely to indicate that the patient is infected with the coronavirus and is more likely to be due to a cold or even an allergy.


The ZOE study found that sneezing more than usual may be a sign of Covid in people who have been vaccinated, although it notes that sneezing is much more likely to be a sign of a cold or an allergy.

He says that although many people with Covid may sneeze, "it's not a definite symptom because sneezing is so common."

Sore throat

Many people with Covid have reported through the ZOE Study app that they have a sore throat that looks similar to what you may experience when you have a cold.

Covid-related sore throats tend to be mild and last no more than five days, so a pain that lasts longer is likely to be something else. If it persists, you should contact your GP.

Although it may be a symptom of Covid, most people with sore throats will probably just have a cold. According to ZOE data, almost half of people who are ill with Covid report having sore throat, although this is more common in adults aged 18-65 years than in the elderly or those under 18 years old.

Loss of smell

Ky vazhdon të jetë treguesi më i fortë i infeksionit Covid, pavarësisht nga mosha, gjinia apo ashpërsia e sëmundjes së një personi.

Kollë e vazhdueshme

Një kollë e vazhdueshme pranohet gjerësisht të jetë një nga tre simptomat kryesore të Covid, por, sipas studimit të ZOE, vetëm rreth katër në 10 njerëz që janë të sëmurë me virus do ta përjetojnë këtë.

Një kollë Covid është zakonisht një kollë e thatë, krahasuar me një kollë gjoksi që sjell gëlbazë ose mukozë dhe që mund të tregojë një infeksion bakterial. Një kollë e vazhdueshme tenton të arrijë rreth disa ditë pas sëmundjes dhe zakonisht zgjat rreth katër ose pesë ditë.

Testimi është vendimtar

If you only received one dose of the vaccine, the ZOE study found that the main symptoms were similar to those of people who had a cold, but a cough was also common. And for those who were unvaccinated, the symptoms were also similar, with fever and cough. If you have any of these symptoms, you should be isolated at home and have a Covid PCR test done as soon as possible.