How to spot the difference between mutant Covid, flu and a common cold

A MUTANT variant of the coronavirus is sweeping the UK and infection rates are on the up.

As the winter months continue and we spend more time indoors due to a third national lockdown – it's likely that some of us will experience cold and flu symptoms.

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Some coronavirus symptoms are similar to a cold and flu, such as a new cough or a high temperature.

The three main coronavirus symptoms are a new persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and smell.

Anyone with these symptoms should get a test and self isolate immediately to avoid spreading the virus.

Experts says that symptoms of the new strain, which was first discovered in the South of England are no different from the existing variant.

People with a cold often feel congested and bunged up – which can also have an impact on our ability to taste food.

Chronic inflammation of the nasal linings can sometimes lead to a loss of taste – this along with a loss of smell, is another key symptom of the coronavirus.

But many people who have contracted the coronavirus have no symptoms at all and some suffer other ailments due to the virus.

So how can you tell the difference between a winter cold and Covid-19?

Dr Belinda Griffiths from The Fleet Street Clinic in London explained the difference between a common cold and Covid-19.


Dr Griffiths said symptoms of a common cold include: sneezing, running nose and a sore throat.

In most cases of a cold – Dr Griffiths said you won't develop a high temperature – which is one of the NHS's key Covid symptoms to look out for.

Dr Griffiths said: "In most cases, you will not develop a temperature.

"Fever chills and muscle aches rarely occur in the common cold, but can happen.

"With a common cold you can usually expect to see an improvement after less than a week, although this can vary."


The NHS states that there are three key coronavirus symptoms to look out for which are a new persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and/or smell.

While these are the three main symptoms, various studies have found that those who present with the virus may also suffer symptoms such as headache and fatigue.

Professor Chris Whitty previously said that people with the new variant of the virus were not displaying different symptoms to the existing variants.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night admitted that Government scientists have found that it is between 50 and 70 per cent more transmissible.

That, he said, "means you are much, much more likely to catch the virus and to pass it on."

Dr Griffiths said that when it comes to Covid-19, the differentiating symptoms from those of a common cold will help you when it comes to what steps and precautions to take.

She said: "These symptoms include the loss of smell and taste, a persistent temperature of greater than 37.8C, General malaise and fatigue, possibly with muscle pains and headaches.

"One of the most common signs of Covid-19 is a new persistent cough.

"Should your cough be producing coloured mucus or if you are experiencing shortness of breath this should always warrant a medical check, but especially if you suffer from Asthma or Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)".

As part of the new national lockdown, schools have been closed, but Mr Johnson last night said schools were safe despite their closures.

He said: "I want to stress that the problem is not that schools are unsafe for children – children are still very unlikely to be severely affected by even the new variant of Covid.


Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London said children are suffering from around five symptoms that are not consistent with those adults are experiencing.

Experts say parents should look out for the following symptoms in children.

  1. Fatigue
  2. Headache
  3. Fever
  4. Sore throat
  5. Loss of appetite

"The problem is that schools may nonetheless act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households."

While adults are known to suffer from the symptoms mentioned above- experts at King's College London previously said that kids had different symptoms to adults.

Dr Griffiths said it should be easy to spot whether or not your child has Covid-19 or a cold and kids who contract the coronavirus are "more likely to present with diarrhoea than adults".

She said: "If your child is acutely unwell and is displaying the above symptoms then never delay in seeking medical help.

"This also goes for patients of any age with a persistent productive cough, who is short of breath, with or without a temperature.

"If you are experiencing any of the above do not delay in asking for medical opinion."

She added: "To sum up, if you have a new continuous cough, a persistent fever, loss of sense of taste and smell as well as a headache you should be tested for Covid-19 as soon as possible."

The World Health Organisation (WHO) listed aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, headache, loss of taste or smell, a rash on skin and discolouration of fingers or toes as less common symptoms of coronavirus.

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