Is it Covid-19 or common cold? Know the difference

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The Covid-19 scare is back in India. It’s winter, so it’s not surprising if you have cough and cold. But the moment you cough out loud or have a runny nose, soon you will find people shutting their windows or distancing themselves from you. Forget about others, even you must be questioning yourself whether you just have cold or Covid-19. After all, the symptoms of Covid-19 and cold are similar. But you should also be able to tell the differences between common cold and Covid-19.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic engulfed the world in 2020, people didn’t take cough and cold seriously. Some home remedies or a cough syrup or a cup of ginger tea would work wonders. But now that Covid-19 is back in news, questions are popping up in the minds of many people.

Common cold and Covid-19 have similar symptoms. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Health Shots consulted Dr Ankur Sarin, a specialist in dermatology, venereology and leprosy, to know the difference between cold and Covid-19.

Similar symptoms of common cold and Covid-19

If you are sneezing, coughing and have slight fever, you don’t have to immediately get on alert mode. Dr Sarin says that symptoms of Covid-19 include cough and sore throat. So, unless you have sore throat or fever, you don’t need to get tested for Covid-19. There are also other symptoms such as shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing, body aches, headache and loss of taste or smell. If you have Covid-19, you will have high fever with chills. In the case of cold, it will be mostly mild fever along with cough and runny nose.

Different causes of common cold and Covid-19

Yes, the symptoms are similar, and it turns out that common cold and Covid-19 are both viral. However, their viruses are different.

Common cold

There are many virus that can make you cough and have a runny nose. Strains of rhinovirus, coronavirus, adenovirus and enterovirus can cause cold, with rhinovirus being the most common cause of common cold.


It is caused by SARS-CoV-2, which was first identified three years ago in Wuhan, China. The virus is known for quickly spreading from one person to another.

Know when to get a Covid-19 test done. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Should I do a Covid-19 test if I have symptoms of cold

Once you start showing symptoms, you should wait for some time and not rush to a hospital. But the moment you have a sore throat with fever, go for a Covid-19 test, suggests Dr Sarin. Then you can be kept in isolation to prevent further spread of infection.

Treatments for common cold and Covid-19

For common cold, you don’t have to see a doctor immediately. Rest and hydration are keys to improve any viral infection. Paracetamol and antihistamine should be kept handy, suggests the expert. If there is faster breathing and very high grade fever with chills then a physician’s opinion should be taken. Most cases can be managed at home, especially if you are vaccinated against coronavirus. To avoid hospitalisation, medications to treat Covid-19 need to be prescribed by a doctor and started soon after diagnosis.

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