I’m a GP – here’s how to tell if youve been struck down by Covid or the flu

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Flu and colds are common occurrences in the autumn and winter months as we become more vulnerable to illnesses.

However, since the start of the pandemic, Covid has also entered the mix.

Again, we are more at risk of infection during the winter, as we spend more time indoors as well as the fact that the virus is able to survive longer in cold, dry conditions.

It can be difficult to tell the illnesses apart, though, with many of the symptoms interchangeable.

GP for LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, Doctor Neel Patel, spoke with Express.co.uk about how to tell the difference between Covid and flu.

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“With winter weather starting to settle in, we should expect to see a rise in cases of colds, flus, and the coronavirus,” he said.

“With each of these circulating at higher rates, it’s important to know the difference between a cold and flu, or coronavirus and flu.

“Knowing which illness you might have means you can best treat yourself and protect others.”

He warned that Covid can be more “severe” as well as more contagious.

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Dr Patel said: “While many symptoms may be similar between the flu and coronavirus, generally, the coronavirus can cause more severe illness than the flu and is more contagious.”

He continued: “People with flu normally feel very unwell for two or three days and will continue to experience symptoms for around another five days.

“After that, you may feel tired and run down for a further two or three weeks.”

In comparison, symptoms of Covid might appear stronger for longer.

“People with coronavirus usually begin to show symptoms five to six days after being exposed and symptoms commonly last up to two weeks,” Dr Patel said.

He warned that they might feel more “intense”.

Dr Patel said: ““It can be difficult to tell coronavirus apart from the flu as they share many of the same symptoms, however they may feel more intense than having a flu.”

He listed the most common symptoms of flu as:

  • A sudden fever (above 38C or 100.4F)
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Tiredness
  • Aching muscles
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat.

The NHS lists Covid symptoms as:

  • A high temperature or shivering (chills)
  • A new, continuous cough
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or exhausted
  • An aching body
  • A headache
  • A sore throat
  • A blocked or runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling sick or being sick.

If you experience any of the following symptoms you should seek immediate medical help, Dr Patel said:

  • Difficulty breathing at rest
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness or drowsiness
  • Constant pressure or pain in the chest
  • Cold, clammy, blue, or pale skin
  • Loss of speech or movement.

He added: “The only way to be certain whether you have the flu or coronavirus is to take a Covid test.

“While Covid tests are no longer freely available on the NHS, you can still buy lateral flow, PCR and antibody tests online.”

Lateral flow tests are also available to buy in some pharmacies.

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