Coronavirus symptoms: Main symptoms to spot signalling either a cold, flu or COVID-19

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As the clocks go forward and the winter season sets upon us Britons, so the rise of colds and flus become a reality. However, this year is like no other and with the threat of a COVID-19 infection offering similar symptoms how can you really know for sure if it’s a cold, flu or COVID-19.


The most common symptoms of a cold are sneezing, aches and pains, a runny or stuffy nose and sore throat.

A mild cough can be experienced.

There is sometimes fatigue, and it is rare to experience a fever or headaches.

Colds do not cause diarrhoea.

The NHS states that with a cold there is usually a gradual onset of symptoms.


Flu most commonly consists of a fever, fatigue, a dry cough, aches and pains and headaches.

Patients will sometimes experience a runny or stuffy nose or a sore throat.

Diarrhoea can sometimes occur in children.

There is usually no sneezing with flu, but a severe shortness of breath can develop, and the NHS notes there is usually a rapid onset of symptoms.

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The most common symptoms of coronavirus or Covid-19 are a fever – a temperature of 37.8C (100F) – a new persistent cough (usually dry), and a loss of their sense of taste and/or smell.

Patients may also sometimes suffer from fatigue, aches and pains, sore throat, headaches and shortness of breath.

Diarrhoea and a runny or stuffy nose are rare.

The NHS says symptoms can range from mild to severe.

The challenge with these three respiratory infections is that they can all present with similar symptoms like coughs, a sore throat, a temperature, aches and pains, said pharmacist Navid Sole. 

He continued: “However, the important distinction between the three is in regard to the commonality of the symptoms as well as how predominant each symptom is for each infection.

“While a lot of the symptoms for each of these illnesses cross over, each virus/infection has a different specific set of symptoms that increases the likelihood of it being that infection.

“Regular cold symptoms tend to be mild and disappear after a couple of days when compared to the flu and COVID, which can lead to more serious side effects such as pneumonia and even death.”

Coronavirus is an illness which hit the UK earlier this year and typically affects your lungs and airways. 

Anyone who has a high temperature, or a new and continuous cough is now required to stay at home for 14 days.

However, some people can experience more severe symptoms, such as pneumonia and even organ failure.

The Government asks anyone experiencing symptoms to remain at home and to not seek advice unless symptoms worsen.

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