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The 5 early warning signs of Covid – and how to tell if it’s NOT a cold or flu

THE CORONAVIRUS is still lingering and while we are all doing our best to stay at home and protect ourselves – you could still be at risk of catching the bug.

During the winter months many people develop cold and flu symptoms and it’s important to be able to distinguish these from Covid-19.

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Experts say that it’s understandable that people associate flu and cold symptoms with Covid-19 as many are similar.

The NHS states that the three main symptoms of Covid-19 are a new persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and smell (anosmia).

It’s important that if you have any of these symptoms then you get a test and isolate.

But what are the five early signs of Covid-19 and how can you tell them apart from cold and flu symptoms?

1. Fatigue

Many people who have contracted the coronavirus say they feel tired.

Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and medical broadcaster said many people with Covid-19 experience profound tiredness and breathing problems, which are much less common with the common cold.

These usually sit alongside the other key symptoms outlined by the NHS.


2. Muscle pain

If you’ve over done it a little bit with your home works outs or your daily walk then you might be experiencing a little bit of muscle pain.

Previous studies show that many people who contract Covid-19 also experience muscle pain.

Experts at King’s College London previously identified six different types of Covid-19, three of which featured muscle pain.

People with Covid who experienced muscle pain also suffered from symptoms such as coughs, anosmia and sore throats.

3. Cough

One key Covid-19 symptom is a new continuous cough and Dr Sarah said this means coughing for more than an hour or at least three significant bouts of coughing in 24 hours.

If your cough is fleeting and phlegmy it’s likely that it’s just a cold, but if you are concerned that it might be Covid-19 then you should get a test.

One of the key Covid-19 symptoms is a cough - if you have a new persistent cough then you should get a test


One of the key Covid-19 symptoms is a cough – if you have a new persistent cough then you should get a test Credit: Getty Images – Getty

4. High temperature

If you have a high temperature or a fever then this could be a sign of Covid-19.

Dr Sarah said that both Covid and a cold are highly contagious.

She said: “They both start in the upper respiratory tract, can be transmitted through the air or from touching surfaces, and can present some similar physical symptoms like a raised temperature.”

A high temperature is classed as anything above 37.8C.

5. Shortness of breath

Shortness of breath and breathing difficulties is common in Covid-19 patients as the virus attacks the lungs.

This is why many people are put on ventilation when they go to hospital.

Dr Belinda Griffiths from The Fleet Street Clinic in London said experiencing shortness of breath this should always warrant a medical check, but especially if you suffer from Asthma or Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


Colds and be annoying and leave us feeling all out sorts, but Dr Sarah says there are some ways you can help yourself get back on track.

Dr Sarah said: “Boosting our immune system is the best defence we can all do to help us cope with the Winter cold and flu virus season.”

  1. Eat your veggies – Dr Sarah says those with brighter colours, give you a good dose of vitamins: the vitamin C and antioxidants they contain in particular are great little cold fighters.
  2. Go to the pharmacy – Dr Sarah said that over the counter remedies can help. She said: “Some products like ColdZyme® can help protect against or can shorten the duration of a cold if used at an early stage, by acting on the virus itself.  It works by forming a fast-acting protective barrier in the mouth and throat where colds and flu develop.”
  3. Drink more water – staying hydrated is important, but Dr Sarah it’s even more important when you have a cold. She advised limiting caffeine and sugary drinks.
  4. Get to bed – Dr Sarah said: “This is when the body is working at its hardest to fight infection and inflammation.  That said, when you are all congested and stuffy it can be more difficult to sleep.  And if the mucus trickles down the back of your throat onto your soft palate, it can make you cough.”
  5. Have a warm bath – A warm bath before bed can be very soothing when you have a cold and can leave you feeling comfortably drowsy and better able to sleep. 
  6. Exercise – Dr Sarah said it may seem odd to suggest exercise when you are feeling poorly, but it’s surprising how much just a 20-minute walk in the fresh air can help your breathing, boost your energy levels and ease your symptoms.   

There are some less common crossovers when it comes to Covid-19 and Dr Sarah said it’s unlikely that you will experience a runny or blocked nose if you have the coronavirus.

She said: “Most people who get symptoms from Covid-19 infection will develop at least one of these three key symptoms, although not necessarily all and certainly not all at the same time. 

“The average time to develop Covid-19 symptoms is 5 days after you’ve been exposed to the virus, although this can range from 2 – 12 days after exposure.”

“Generally speaking, nasal congestion, sneezing and a runny nose are more typical of the common cold and symptoms can appear 2 – 3 days after exposure, only last a few days and are usually milder in severity.”

While some people may display symptoms of Covid-19 it’s also important to remember that a third of people are asymptomatic.

This means that you won’t display any symptoms.

If you think you have Covid-19 and you don’t have symptoms then local flow lateral tests sites across the country are open for you to get a test.

You can also get a test through the NHS via walk in sites or through the post.

Click here to find out how to get a test.

Brandon Lewis warns it is ‘too early’ to say when lockdown can be lifted

Source: The Sun

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