Do you have Covid, a cold or hay fever? Experts share how to tell symptoms apart


With symptoms of Covid-19, the common cold and there is fever overlapping, it can be hard to tell which you’ve got. Here health experts explain how to tell the difference

It can be hard to know whether you have Covid, a common cold or hay fever

Covid cases are rising in the UK, and with free lateral flow tests being scrapped since April 1, it’ll be harder to know if you have the virus if you don’t have the usual symptoms.

Although Covid cases are emerging, there are also other seasonal illnesses around which could cause you to experience similar symptoms, such as the common cold and flu.

And now spring has officially sprung, there is fever is being thrown into the mix.

It’s estimated that almost half of the UK (49%) suffer from hay fever, according to AllergyUK, but with overlapping symptoms it becomes hard to differentiate between a common cold or even Covid-19.

Here, with the help of health experts, we explain the difference in symptoms, and what you should look out for.

How to tell if you’ve got a cold or Covid

The symptoms of a cold, Covid and hay fever overlap



With so many overlapping symptoms, it can be hard to differentiate between a cold and Covid.

Firstly, be aware of the main symptoms of Covid. According to the NHS, they are:

  • at high temperature
  • A new, continuous cough
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

The common cold can have similar symptoms. According to the NHS, they are:

  • A blocked or runny nose
  • a sore throat
  • Headaches
  • muscle aches
  • Cough’s
  • sneezing
  • A raised temperature
  • Pressure in your ears and face
  • loss of taste and smell

Deep Patel, Lloyds Pharmacy’s Vaccination Services Manager, further explained the difference between a cold and Covid.

He said: “People can confuse a common cold and Covid-19 as they’re both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses.

“Colds generally do not cause serious health problems such as pneumonia or bacterial infections, and they rarely lead to hospital care.

“Typical cold symptoms are sneezing a lot and a runny nose, sometimes you’ll also have a high temperature of 37.5C ​​or more. Unlike a cold the symptoms we see with Covid-19 tend to be much more severe and often include a dry and continuous cough, loss of taste and shortness of breath.

“You’re also more likely to have a fever with Covid-19 than with a cold but symptoms vary for people infected with the corona virus. If you think you have symptoms of Covid-19 we recommend you take a lateral flow test as soon as possible.”

What’s the difference between hay fever and Covid?

Up to 49% of the UK’s population is thought to suffer from hay fever


Getty Images/RF Culture)

There ever is usually worse between late March and September, especially when it’s warm.

According to the NHS, the main symptoms, similar to a cold and Covid, are:

  • Sneezing and coughing
  • A runny or blocked nose
  • Itchy, red or watery eyes
  • Itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
  • loss of smell
  • Pain around your temples and forehead
  • Headache
  • earache
  • feeling tired

Highlighting the difference between hay fever and Covid, Dr Belinda Griffiths from The Fleet Street Clinic in London, said: “Hay fever is an allergic condition which predominantly affects the nose and eyes. Common symptoms include itchy, red, watering eyes, sneezing and a running nose, which may feel blocked.

“In the majority of cases, excluding asymptomatic cases, Covid-19 tends to make you feel unwell. The most common symptoms remain to be a new continuous cough, loss of sense of taste and smell and a high-temperature. It is possible for the symptoms of both to overlap.

“For example, you can have a postnasal drip with hay fever, which can make you cough, but in general, the symptoms of hay fever tend to be milder than that of Covid. If the symptoms improve with an antihistamine or a nasal spray, it is likely to be hay fever.

“If they don’t improve it may be worse considering the symptoms are something else. If you are not sure, or you have a temperature, loss of sense of smell and taste, a cough and general malaise, always check with your GP or call 111. You can take an rt-PCR test to exclude Covid-19.”

How to find out if you have a cold, hay fever or Covid

If you have Covid symptoms you should get a PCR test



The only way to know for sure if you have Covid is to do a test.

At the moment the advice stands that if you have Covid symptoms you shoulder order a free PCR test from the government website.

You should do this if you have any of the main symptoms of Covid.

From April PCR tests will no longer be available, except for a small number of at-risk groups.

More details of this will be announced in due course.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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