Individuals suffering with a headache, a high fever and a runny nose often associate these symptoms with a common cold.

However, many people may have developed a bout of the sniffles if they are prone to having hay fever and in addition, the number of COVID-19 cases in the UK have surged over the last two weeks.

With these three conditions all having similar symptoms, we’ve put together a guide on how to detect whether you are suffering from a common cold, hay fever or the coronavirus.


When the coronavirus first surfaced in the UK, the main symptoms people were told to look out for were a loss of taste or smell, a fever and a continuous cough.

Over the last two years, these symptoms have significantly increased due to new variations of the virus and COVID-19 vaccinations.

Other symptoms of the coronavirus include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

The UK is currently facing its fifth wave of COVID-19, with BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the Omicron variant spreading around the country.

According to scientists, a loss of taste or smell is less prominent with the Omicron variant because this strain of the virus affects the lungs more than the nose.

Hay fever

Pollen levels have skyrocketed over the last two weeks, leaving millions of people battling with the condition.

This year, more people are struggling with hay fever due to spending more time indoors during the COVID-19 lockdowns, experts have said.

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, typically when it comes into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes and throat.

Common symptoms of the allergy include:

  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, red or watery eyes.

The eyes are often affected because the body tries to clear out the pollen, resulting in the tears ducts releasing fluids to ease the presence of the powder.

Additionally, hay fever triggers inflammation and causes the eyes to become sore, experts have said.

Hay fever also produces histamine, which can often irritate the nerve endings. As a result of the condition, blood vessels also dilate and swell in a bid to combat the irritant.

Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots, said: “Hay fever doesn’t cause a high temperature and most people do not feel unwell.

“Symptoms include sneezing, a runny or blocked nose, itchy red watery eyes or an itchy throat.

Use barrier balms, such as petroleum jelly, around the nostrils to trap pollen and wear wraparound sunglasses to keep pollen out the eyes to keep symptoms in check. Antihistamine tablets and nasal sprays can also be used to help fight off symptoms.”

Common cold

Affecting people all year round, the common cold is particularly rife during festival season. After two years of social restrictions, the common cold is now spreading amongst big crowds, like those seen at Glastonbury 2022.

Symptoms of a common cold includes:

  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Sneezing
  • Aches and pains
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

“Colds can still occur during warmer months, and usually involve sneezing and coughing, along with a sore throat, headache and sometimes a loss of taste and smell,” said Mr Donovan.

He added: “You could consider taking pain killers to help ease aches or relieve a blocked nose with a decongestant nasal spray or decongestant tablets.”


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