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Is it a cold, flu or coronavirus? Here's how to know
Friday, 9 October · 2 min read

As temperatures drop and colder weather creeps in, your chances of catching a cold or flu will rise. And because both illnesses share some symptoms with coronavirus, you might be unsure which one you’ve got.

The main symptoms of coronavirus are a fever, a continuous cough and a change to your sense of smell or taste.

Public health expert Professor Linda Bauld from the University of Edinburgh says that although coronavirus can cause other symptoms, large research studies on people in hospital shows that most people have at least 1 of the main 3.

If you have any of these symptoms, you should follow local guidance on self-isolating and testing.

Here’s how cold and flu compare:

Symptom Coronavirus Flu Cold
Fever Common Common Rare
Cough Common Common Common
Change to sense of taste or smell Common Sometimes Sometimes
Tiredness Common Common Sometimes
Stuffy nose Sometimes Sometimes Common
Sore throat Sometimes Sometimes Common

Symptoms of both coronavirus and flu can range from mild to severe. But it's worth noting that cold symptoms tend to come on more slowly, while the flu can make you feel ill very quickly.

Coronavirus symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear, but many people get symptoms within 4 to 5 days.

If you have severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pains or pressure, or a loss of speech or movement, get medical help immediately.

But remember that studies also show that most people infected with coronavirus report no symptoms at all. So it's important to follow guidance around social distancing, wearing a face mask and washing your hands regularly.

Quote of the day

A healthy attitude is contagious but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.

Tom Stoppard, playwright

Preventing the spread of coronavirus