As the season's change, allergies and common colds come and go, affecting millions of Americans every year. This year, though, there is a much more concerning virus that bears some resemblance to the minor illnesses most are accustomed to: coronavirus (COVID-19).

However, just because a global pandemic is currently sweeping through the nation that does not mean the typical flus and sickness bugs have all disappeared. Of course, while you may be grateful for catching a virus of a much lesser severity, the initial symptoms are still frightening and can cause further distress among your household.

Additionally, not knowing what is affecting your health could result in you self-isolating from your loved ones, making lockdown even harder.

So, to help clarify the likely cause behind your symptoms, we have broken down which are typical and atypical of a cold below.

Fever

A fever, or a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), is a symptom of both coronavirus and occasionally (but not always) the common cold. There is no need to panic if you do not have a thermometer. If you feel hot to the touch on your chest or back, these are both key indicators of a fever.

 Coronavirus does, in most cases, give the sufferer a fever. Although, without a cough or shortness of breath, there is generally no immediate cause for alarm. In fact, if this is paired with a runny nose and sneezing, then the likelihood of your condition being a cold instead is much higher.

Shortness of breath

Perhaps the most significant of the coronavirus symptoms, shortness of breath is not a common sign of a cold and should be treated with more concern. It is a sign that your respiratory system is not functioning as well as it needs to, and it often leads to the feeling that you are not able to get enough oxygen.

The reason for its connection to COVID-19 is the development of pneumonia – an extreme side effect of the virus. Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs that prevents oxygen from reaching your bloodstream. However, please bear in mind that shortness of breath is not caused by pneumonia alone – allergies, asthma and anxiety attacks can all impact your breathing.

Coughing

Coughing is common in colds and coronavirus; however, the type of cough varies between the two. As you will know, a recurring cough during a cold will typically involve phlegm at the back of your throat, which will break up and leave your airways as you cough. Sometimes, if coughing is brought on by allergies, then it may be what is considered a ‘dry’ cough. A dry cough is a cough in the absence of mucus.

A dry cough is what is being classed as a symptom of coronavirus. However, in this case, the cough is continuous and triggered by a tickle in the back of your throat. A dry cough will not change your airways and can be considered ‘unsatisfying coughs’. If you are experiencing this and have an accompanying symptom such as loss of taste or smell, contact your doctor.

Aches and pains

Again, aches and pains could be caused by all manner of things. On their own, they could represent little more than over-exertion following exercise or the onset of a cold. The reason why colds cause aches and pains is because your immune system is sending white blood cells to fight off the infection. This causes inflammation around the body, leaving you feeling stiff.

Coronavirus causes the exact same reaction for the same reason – but not in every patient. Therefore, while it is safer to be cautious, it is advised that you do not contact your doctor until you begin to experience some of the more notable symptoms like a fever or shortness of breath.

Sneezing

Sneezing is perhaps the key indicator that you have a cold over coronavirus. Sneezing is the expulsion of sudden air through the nose and mouth and is rarely a sign of serious illness. It may not even be a cold you are suffering from – you may be experiencing a reaction to an increase in the levels of pollen in areas local to you, for example. 

That being said, sneezing still presents a risk. It can project coronavirus-containing droplets up to (it is currently believed) 26 feet away. For the safety of others, be sure to distance yourself appropriately and clean your hands regularly.

Sore throat

Colds can cause sore throats – usually through the amount of coughing you experience or as part of the cold virus itself. The symptoms are limited to a dry, scratchy throat that hurts when swallowing and swollen neck glands. Be conscious that a temperature may accompany the condition in children.

Coronavirus can bring with it a sore throat; however, it is not a definite symptom. If you are making a high-pitched sound as you breathe, or you feel that you are having difficulty swallowing altogether, then it is important you contact your doctor immediately.

How we can help

If you are concerned that you may be suffering from coronavirus, stay at home and call your doctor. Inform them (and your health provider) of your symptoms and they will determine whether or not you are safe to recover at home.

If you (or your healthcare provider) believe that you may be suffering from a common cold or other illness, speak to a member of our pharmacy team today and we will walk you through any suitable medication you can take to alleviate your symptoms.