Now that all the schools have gone back and children are mixing again, coughs and sniffles have returned, but is it possible to tell whether it is a cold or coronavirus?

Public health announcements constantly remind the general public that self-isolation and a COVID-19 test is required should someone develop a persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste.

But coughs can also be a symptom of the common cold. With COVID-19 tests reportedly becoming hard to book, it might be useful for diligent parents to be able to spot the difference between a coronavirus symptom and a sniffle that all children are certain to eventually develop over the winter months.

High temperature: a sign of illness

A high temperature is 37.8C or above and occurs because the body is trying to fight off any sort of infection.

Use of a thermometer is highly recommended so an accurate recording can be made. Although a high temperature is one of the coronavirus symptoms, it could also indicate the person has flu or a different infection.

What’s the difference between the flu, a cold, and coronavirus?

People who become sick with the flu usually start to feel unwell quite suddenly. They may also experience muscle aches, chills, headaches, tiredness, a sore throat and a runny or stuffed nose, along with a cough. It feels worse than a heavy cold.

Colds are a bit more of a slow burner and tend to develop more gradually. Although people can generally feel poorly with a cold, the symptoms are less severe. A cough may also develop, along with sneezing, sore throat and runny nose. Fever, chills and muscle aches.

However, a coronavirus cough means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing fits or “episodes” in 24 hours. For people who have a long-standing health condition, such as COPD, the coughing may be significantly worse.

Sneezing is not a symptom of coronavirus, nor is a runny nose.

Most people who feel ill with coronavirus will have at least one of the key symptoms:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste

If you develop those symptoms contact the online NHS coronavirus service here.

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