How to tell the difference between Covid and a Cold

With so much crossover of current symptoms between COVID and a cold, it can be difficult to know what is making us unwell. Here are the Zoe app tips for how to tell the difference between the viruses, and when you should get tested. 

At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the main distinguishing symptoms of COVID-19 were thought to be fever, cough and loss of smell (anosmia), often known as the ‘classic three or triad’. Thanks to millions of health reports from our ZOE COVID Study app contributors, we now know that there are more than 20 symptoms of COVID-19, including headache, runny nose, sneezing  and sore throat. 

Over the past 18 months the pattern of symptoms has changed as the virus has evolved and more people have been vaccinated. Many of the symptoms of COVID-19 are now the same as a regular cold, especially for people who have received two doses of the vaccine, making it hard to tell the difference. Take a look at the lists below to know which of the most common COVID-19 symptoms you should be looking out for, depending on whether you’ve been vaccinated or not. Our data shows that loss of smell (anosmia) or loss of taste is still one of the most important predictors of testing positive for COVID-19 rather than a regular cold, so it’s an important symptom to look out for, whether you’ve been vaccinated or not. You can check your sense of smell easily at home by sniffing scented foods or products, or noticing whether familiar foods start to lose their flavour or taste strange.

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