Is a cough a Covid symptom? How to tell whether you have a cold or coronavirus

As the UK is hit by a rise of coronavirus cases and a shortage of PCR and lateral flow test kits, it is important people know what the symptoms of the virus are

People should know what symptoms are as cases rise
People should know what symptoms are as cases rise

Coronavirus cases in the UK have seen a huge surge and it is vital people know what the symptoms are.

The UK hit a record number of Covid infections recording 183,037 cases on Wednesday, December 29.

The record rates come as the UK suffers the effects of a shortage of PCR tests. Shortages are a problem as PCR tests are used as the final confirmation that a person has Covid.

Colds are also more common over the winter period and people can often confuse the two symptoms with each other and assume that their symptoms are just a cold.

Lateral flow tests, of which there is also a shortage, are crucial in the drive to stop potentially infectious people mixing when they should not be.

One expert warned that the shortage might lead to people mixing over New Year.

Professor Peter Openshaw told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We know the situations in which transmission happens and fortunately I don’t think we are facing the sort of lockdown that was necessary in order to cope in the very earliest part of this year.”

So how do you tell the difference between a cough and Covid?

Are my symptoms a cough or Covid?

Make sure to take a Covid test if you have symptoms


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The best way of telling if your symptoms are Covid or a cold is by taking a lateral flow test, or a PCR. You may have to persevere when ordering a kit, as there are currently shortages up and down the UK.

A cough is a symptom of both Covid and a cold, so you should be on the lookout for other symptoms as well.

By a cough, the NHS means a person coughing for a lot more than they usually do, a cough that lasts an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours.

Symptoms like a high temperature are less likely to occur with a cold and if you have a loss of taste or smell then it is much more likely to be due to Covid.

Other less common but recognised symptoms of Covid include:

  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Being tired
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Sore or scratchy throat
  • Runny nose
  • Night sweats
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

If you have any of these symptoms, you should get a PCR test as soon as you can and self-isolate until you receive your test result. Don’t just assume it is a cold as you may be infectious.

Why do I need to know about Covid-19 symptoms?

You need to isolate if you have certain symptoms


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People should be able to recognise symptoms as soon as possible, as they may have to self-isolate.

This helps protect your immediate friends and family from the virus.

It is also currently difficult to get a PCR test ordered and there is also a shortage of lateral flow tests (LFT).

A UK Health Security Agency spokesperson said around eight million of the much-needed test kits would be made available to pharmacies by New Year’s Eve.

They said: “The UK’s testing programme is the biggest in Europe with almost 400 million tests carried out since the start of the pandemic.

“We are delivering record numbers of lateral flow tests to pharmacies across the country, with almost eight million test kits being made available to pharmacies between today and New Year’s Eve.”

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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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