All three of these viruses have one symptom in common – a cough. With flu season behind the corner lasting until March, many might fall ill from this virus. Others have been struggling since September with the “worst cold ever”. Here, a senior pharmacist at Medicine Direct offers the answer on how to tell apart a normal cough from a Covid cough.
Sonia Khan, the senior pharmacist at Medicine Direct, explained the best way to differentiate between the three viruses is to look at the other symptoms you’re experiencing.
Cold symptoms include coughing, sneezing, sore throat and headaches, according to the NHS.
Flu and cold can feel very similar with some symptoms overlapping.
However, sudden fever is a symptom that could help to tell them apart as this is typical for flu.
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When it comes to Covid, most people will suffer from at least one of these:
- High temperature
- New continuous cough
- Loss or a change to your smell or taste.
What about the cough?
Khan said: “It can be hard to tell the difference between a COVID cough and a cough associated with a cold or flu.
“If you have a continuous, dry cough, this may be a symptom of COVID.
“If your cough produces phlegm or makes you feel congested, it is more likely to be the result of a cold or flu.”
However, this is when it becomes tricky as flu can also cause dry cough just like Covid, the pharmacist shared.
She added: “The most sensible and sure-fire way of finding out what type of cough you have is to take a COVID test.
“If your result comes back as negative but the cough doesn’t go away, you should talk to your doctor.”
Cough isn’t only the sign for viruses, if it’s persistent it could be signalling more serious conditions.
The pharmacist explained: “A cough that lasts for a long time can be caused by various problems.
“The most obvious one is asthma. The cough associated with asthma may fluctuate depending on the time of year, although most people with this condition find it worse in the cold weather when exposed to cold air.”
Another disease characteristic of persistent cough is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“This inflammatory lung disease stops air from flowing to the lungs properly,” Khan said.
“COPD can make it very difficult to breathe and also cause a chronic cough that may produce phlegm,” she added.
A long-lasting cough could also be a warning sign of lung cancer, the pharmacist says this especially affects people who smoke or used to.
The pharmacist said: “This type of cough will be long-lasting and may cause you to cough up blood.
“You may also suffer recurrent chest infections and breathlessness.”
Speak to your GP if you’re struggling with a long-lasting cough.