What’s the difference between a cold and COVID-19 and which test should you have?

If you are confused about the difference between a common cold and COVID-19 symptoms, and which Covid test to have, then NHS Stockport Clinical Commissioning Group has some advice.

A common cold can usually be treated without seeing a GP and you should begin to feel better in about one or two weeks. The symptoms of a common cold are typically a blocked or runny nose, sore throat, head and muscle aches, coughs, sneezing, raised temperature, pressure in the ears and face or a loss of taste and smell.

For more information visit www.stockportccg.nhs.uk/your-health/staying-well and  learn more about how to treat a cold or sniffle.

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are a high temperature, a new continuous cough, a loss or change to sense of smell or taste.

You should not visit your GP, the hospital, or any healthcare setting if you have any of the COVID-19 symptoms. You need to get tested and record a negative result before doing so.

There are two main COVID-19 tests: LFT (lateral flow tests) and PCR (polymerase chain reaction tests). Both tests are free of charge and rely on swab testing of the mouth and/or nose. The completed PCR test needs to be posted through Royal Mail to be processed by a laboratory, whereas the lateral flow tests are carried out at home, and you see your results there and then.

  1. LFT – mainly for people who do not have symptoms. It can also check for COVID-19 if someone is unsure whether they have a cold or COVID-19. It gives a quick result using a device like a pregnancy test and can be carried out at home.

If you test positive you must immediately self-isolate to help stop the virus spreading. Arrange a follow up PCR test to confirm the result and check if people you live with need to self-isolate.

Taking a free rapid lateral flow test before socialising or meeting with family or friends, will give peace of mind that you are unlikely to be infectious and able to spread COVID-19. Everyone can order a free supply of rapid lateral flow tests online at www.nhs.uk/Get-Tested, by calling 119, or collecting kits from most local pharmacies. Ordering them now will ensure you and your family have some to hand over the Christmas period.

  1. PCR – mainly for people with symptoms. Tests are sent to a laboratory to be checked.

Get a PCR test at www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or if you have received a positive result from an LFT. Stay at home until you get your test result. You should only leave your home to have the test.

It’s important to report the test result, whether it’s positive or negative, at www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result.

Dr Cath Munro, Chair of NHS Stockport Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “I urge everyone to do their bit this Christmas by testing regularly before mixing with others. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate until they get a negative PCR test result.

“In addition to regular testing, I encourage everyone to get vaccinated and continue to take other preventative measures such as regular hand washing and wearing a face mask. This will reduce the risk of catching and spreading the virus.”