Although many COVID restrictions have now been lifted in the UK, the official list of COVID symptoms has recently been expanded – to include nine extra symptoms.

Ths list of symptoms of COVID now includes things such as diarrhoea, muscle pains and a sore throat – many of which are similar to cold symptoms.

So, how can you tell if you’ve got COVID or a bad cold?

What are the official symptoms of COVID?

The original list of COVID symptoms just contained three symptoms, which were:

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

Nine new symptoms were recently added to this list, and these are:

  • shortness of breath
  • feeling tired or exhausted, lack of energy
  • muscle aches or pains
  • headache that lasts longer than usual
  • blocked or runny nose
  • sore throat, stuffy or runny nose
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling sick or being sick

It is not possible to tell if you have COVID, a cold or flu, or another infection, just based on these symptoms alone – which is why it is advisable to take a Peace of Mind PCR Test so that you discover if it is COVID before you are at risk of spreading it to other people.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, plus a high temperature and you don’t feel well enough to go to school or work, then you should stay home and take a test to confirm.

Is a change in my sense of smell or loss of taste still important?

A change in your sense of smell or loss of taste was one of the first three key symptoms of COVID identified during the first outbreak, but this symptom seems to be much less common with the new Omicron variant of the infection.

The ZOE COVID Study app has revealed the five most common symptoms experienced by people with positive COVID tests are:

  • runny nose (83%)
  • fatigue (71%)
  • sore throat (69%)
  • headache (69%)
  • sneezing (58%)

How can I find out if I have a fever or high temperature?

A high temperature for adults is classed as 37.8C or advice and usually happens when the body is fighting off any infection – not just the Coronavirus infection. A high temperature is unlikely with a cold,, however.

If you don’t have a thermometer to check your exact temperature, then you can check yourself or the person you are worried about by feeling their back or chest to see if it feels hot.

How do I know which symptoms mean I should stay at home?

If you live in England and have any of the symptoms listed above plus a high temperature, and you don’t feel well enough to go to school or work, then you are advised to stay at home.

You should also avoid contact with other people, in particular those who are at risk of being very unwell if they contract COVID.

People who live in England and are displaying COVID symptoms are no longer advised to take a COVID test, but it might be wise to do so just for your own peace of mind. If you do take a test and get a positive result, then you should stay at home and avoid contact with people for five days from the day you took your test. Most people will not be infectious after five days, but it is possible for some people to pass on the COVID virus for up to ten days.

People in Northern Ireland or Scotland with symptoms are still being advised to take a PCR test. If you are in Wales then a lateral flow test (LFT) is advised. Anyone who tests positive in any of these nations should isolate.

How can I reduce the spread of COVID in my household?

If you test positive for COVID, then you should try to keep your distance from the people that you share a house with, especially from those who have a weaker immune system than most.

Cleaning frequently touched surfaces like remote controls and door handles can also help to protect people in your home from COVID and other viruses.

What should I do if I can’t stay at home?

If you feel unwell but have to leave the house, you can reduce the risk of passing on the virus by:

  • avoiding crowded places such as public transport and large indoor gatherings
  • wearing a well-fitting mask
  • exercising outdoors
  • covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze
  • washing your hands frequently

What if I am worried about my symptoms?

Most people can treat themselves for COVID at home, by getting plenty of rest and keeping hydrated – similar to any other mild respiratory illness.

You could also take paracetamol to relieve headaches and muscle aches or pains, but they won’t “get rid” of COVID or other viral infections, they will just help you to feel better.

If you are having trouble breathing then you should call your doctor or the NHS 111 service. If you get sudden shortness of breath then call 999 immediately.

The NHS also advises that you:

  • call 111 if you are worried about a child under 5
  • call 999 if you are worried about your child getting worse or you think there’s something seriously wrong

Further Reading:

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