Five key differences between symptoms of the common cold and Covid – new findings

WHO calls for action as Europe coronavirus cases rise

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The potential surge in respiratory viruses this winter could leave over-stretched health services unable to cope. The gravity of the issue, however, hinges on the success of vaccines and how the current surge in coronavirus progresses. The now-dominant Delta variant has already challenged the containment of the coronavirus by producing a different set of symptoms to the original strain. But now, emerging respiratory illnesses could further confuse efforts to characterise the deadly coronavirus. The ZOE app, however, has now outlined the five most common symptoms in those who are vaccinated.

Experts have warned that respiratory illness, which finds it easier to spread in the winter months, could fuel a wave of illness this winter.

The ZOE app, however, has warned that many of the symptoms that distinguish COVID-19 are the same as those produced by the common cold, making it “hard to tell the difference”.

Professor Irene Peterson, professor of epidemiology and health informatics at University College London, explained: “A runny nose and headaches are symptoms of many infections, but may also be the first symptoms and only symptoms of Covid.

“Therefore, if you have these symptoms, I’d encourage you to use lateral flow tests for a couple of days.”

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The ZOE app points out that of the 20 symptoms linked to the coronavirus, the following five could be key to distinguishing between different viruses this winter.


Sneezing has been identified as a sign of COVID-19 in people who have been vaccinated, according to the ZOE app.

It explains: “[Sneezing] is not a definitive symptom because sneezing is so common, especially in the warmer months where people might experience hay fever.”

It points out that sneezing is “much more likely to be a sign of a regular cold or allergy”.


According to ZOE, headache is deemed one of the lesser-known symptoms of the virus, yet it is one of the first to appear and is more common than other classic Covid symptoms including cough, fever and loss of smell.

“It’s important to remember that headaches are very common, especially as many of us are staring at screens each day,” adds ZOE.

Runny nose

Data collated by the ZOE application purports that having a runny nose can be a symptom of COVID-19.

According to the app, however, the prevalence of a runny nose is likely to be higher when rates of the virus are high.

Conversely, it states, when COVID-19 rates are lower, a runny nose may simply result from a cold or an allergy.

Loss of smell

According to the ZOE app, loss of smell is one of the most significant predictors of COVID-19 and warrants an immediate test.

It says: “If you have anosmia or a change in your sense of smell, you may notice that you can’t smell strongly scented things like coffee or flowers.”

The health body advises monitoring your sense of smell daily “using simple household appliances”.

The new guidelines come as a study conducted by the University of Bristol has determined that it is safe to administer the flu vaccine at the same time as the COVID-19 jab.

The study found that receiving both vaccines on the same day did not lessen the efficacy of either shot.

The most common side effects from receiving both shots included pain at the injection site, temporary fatigue, headache or muscle pain.

The promising results could mean fewer appointments will be required for those eligible for both shots, helping boost immune defences ahead of winter.

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