Cold or COVID? Here’s How To Tell The difference


With the colder months approaching, Africa is entering the traditional seasons for colds and flu, with the additional complication this year that symptoms of those two illnesses can be broadly similar to those experienced by people who have caught the coronavirus and may be at risk of spreading it.

Coronavirus or Covid-19

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 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.

Does a fever mean I have coronavirus?

A high temperature is 37.8C or above. A fever like this can happen when the body is fighting off any infection – not just coronavirus. It is best to use a thermometer to take a measure. But if you don’t have one, check if you, or the person you are worried about, feels hot to the touch on the chest or back. Although fever is a key coronavirus symptom, it could be flu or a different infection. A high temperature is unlikely with a cold. If you have a fever, arrange a coronavirus test.

What about a cough?

If you have a cold or flu you may well have a cough, along with other symptoms. Colds tend to develop more gradually and are less severe, although they do still make you feel unwell. Along with a cough, there may be sneezing and a sore throat and runny nose. Fever, chills, muscle aches and headaches are rare. A coronavirus cough means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing fits or “episodes” in 24 hours. If you usually have a cough because of a long-standing medical condition like COPD, it may be worse than usual. You should get tested for coronavirus if you develop a new, continuous cough.

Does sneezing mean I’ve got coronavirus?

Sneezing is not a symptom of coronavirus, and unless you also have a fever, cough, or loss of smell and taste, you do not need a test. Sneeze droplets can spread infections though, so catch them in a tissue, put it in the bin and then wash your hands. Remember Hands. Face. Space to help stop the spread of coronavirus and other illnesses: Wash your hands regularly, use a face covering when social distancing is not possible and try to keep your distance from those not in your household.

How about a runny or blocked nose?

As we head into winter and with children back to school and more workplaces open, lots of people will be getting colds. A runny nose is not a reason to get tested for coronavirus. Data from an app that has been monitoring Covid-19 symptoms reported by UK users, suggests children present less often with respiratory symptoms and are more likely to be suffering from fever, headaches, fatigue, and skin rashes.


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