Is it hay fever, a cold or Covid?

3 mins

Feeling rough? You’re probably wondering if it’s a cold, hay fever or even Covid. We’re here to help you decipher your symptoms. That way, you’ll know whether you need a chat with your doctor, a trip to the pharmacy – or even a lazy day chilling on the sofa.

Is it Covid or a cold?

It’s tough telling the difference between symptoms. Especially when you want to shut the door on the world and feel sorry for yourself. The Mayo Clinic has compiled a useful table that’ll make things easier:

And remember, the NHS identifies three main symptoms of coronavirus. These are:

  • High temperature
  • Continuous cough
  • Change or loss in smell or taste

If you’re suffering with a cold or flu and want to double-check it’s not COVID-19, here’s a quick three-step guide for each.

COVID-19 or the common cold?

The common cold shares fewer symptoms with coronavirus than the flu, so it should be easier for you to tell the difference.

1. Symptoms of COVID-19 that are not symptoms of the common cold:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Fever (a temperature over 37.8C)
  • A loss or change to sense of smell or taste (usually sudden)
  • Diarrhoea (sometimes for children)

2. Symptoms of the common cold that are not symptoms of COVID-19:

  • A stuffy nose
  • Sneezing

3. Symptoms that COVID-19 and the common cold share:

  • Fatigue
  • Coughing – although with COVID-19, a cough is more likely be severe, dry and continuous
  • Aches and pains – although these are more common with a common cold
  • Sore throat – although this is more common with a common cold

COVID-19 or the flu?

Although many symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu overlap, there are some key differences to point out.

1. Symptoms of COVID-19 that are not symptoms of the flu:

  • A loss or change to sense of smell or taste (usually sudden)
  • Shortness of breath

2. Symptoms of the flu that are not symptoms of COVID-19:

  • A stuffy nose
  • Feeling sick or being sick

3. Symptoms that COVID-19 and the flu share:

  • Fever (a temperature over 37.8C)
  • Diarrhoea (especially for children)
  • Dry cough – although this is more continuous with COVID-19
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue – although this is more common with the flu
  • Headaches – although this is more common with the flu
  • Aches and pains – although these are more common with the flu

If you’re worried about any of your symptoms, always take recommended COVID-19 precautions and get professional medical advice.

Is it Covid or hay fever?

If you suffer from allergies, firstly we feel for you! Along with wanting to tell allergies to get stuffed, you’ve more than likely wondered about hay fever vs cold symptoms. Well, high five to Allergy UK, who have outlined the important differences between the virus and hay fever.

1. Symptoms of COVID-19 that are not symptoms of hay fever:

  • Highly contagious – so if someone in your family who does not usually have hay fever suddenly comes down with symptoms, it’s not likely to be hay fever that’s causing them
  • Fever with a body temperature of anything above 37.8C (despite the name, hay fever does not create a rise in body temperature)

2. Symptoms of hay fever that are not symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy, stuffy nose

3. The key symptoms that COVID-19 and hay fever both include:

  • Coughing and wheezing are lesser-known symptoms of hay fever and are also one of the key COVID-19 symptoms
  • The itchy throat associated with hay fever can lead to a cough or make you tight-chested, which is exacerbated if you get pollen-induced asthma. Remember, if you have trouble breathing you must seek urgent medical advice
  • In COVID-19 a common symptom is a new cough that is prolonged and does not go away. It can also cause breathing difficulties and shortness of breath, which can be a medical emergency
  • If in doubt about these, or any other symptoms, always take recommended COVID-19 precautions and seek medical advice

Good hygiene habits are always important, but even more so these days–particularly when flu season kicks in. Wash your hands regularly with hot water and soap for at least 60 seconds, then dry them with a clean, dry towel. Keep tissues with you, too. That way, you’ll never get caught out with a sudden cough or explosive sneeze (so much better than using your sleeve, eh?) Reduce the spread of germs by taking charge, catching them in a tissue and binning it1 .

All hay fever content and advice is provided on behalf of Allergy UK.

Hay fever, a cold or COVID-19?

Knowing the pollen count where you are can also help you with understanding whether you have hay fever, a cold, the flu or coronavirus. Check out Your Pollen Pal. Our handy tool forecasts hyper-local pollen levels, so you can plan that jog, brunch date or whatever without hay fever getting an invite.


The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment

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