IT'S that time of year again when people spend much of their time coughing, sneezing, and spluttering.
Pre-pandemic, this was never much of an issue – but now, a cough can lead to raised eyebrows and looks of concern.
Is it a cold? Flu? Or worse, Covid?
While Covid isn't as prominent as it was this time last year, a new variant has led to a rise in cases over the past few months.
Millions have already had the bug and the majority of Brits also have protection due to the huge vaccine rollout.
The current strain circulating, 'Pirola', has been proven to be no worse than Omicron and milder than others that came before it, such as Delta and Alpha.
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We don't know what the Pirola symptoms are just yet.
However, doctors have been reporting the Covid disease, in recent months, has been following a very distinctive pattern.
Now, medics have found the bug instead affects the upper respiratory tract, which includes the nose and voice box, making it harder to differentiate from a cold and flu.
Dr Erick Eiting from Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York, US, told NBC news: "It isn’t the same typical symptoms that we were seeing before.
"It’s a lot of congestion, sometimes sneezing, usually a mild sore throat."
The sore throat emerges first followed by a stuffy nose, he explained.
The Zoe Covid Symptom Study, which collects data on self-reported symptoms in the UK, said the five most common symptoms are:
- Runny nose
- Fatigue (mild or severe)
- Sore throat
It was first detected in Denmark in July this year and quickly became the dominant strain in the UK.
Government figures suggest numbers have begun to fall, after a sudden uptick in July through to September.
There were 5,694 new cases of Covid reported in England in the week up to November 4, according to the latest government data.
This shows a decrease of 18 per cent compared to the previous seven days.
For many people having the flu will feel like an exaggerated cold.
The NHS states that flu symptoms can come on very quickly.
- A sudden high temperature
- An aching body
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- A dry cough
- A sore throat
- A headache
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhoea or tummy pain
- Feeling sick and being sick
The dry cough could be similar to the cough experienced by people who have contracted the coronavirus.
The NHS states that the symptoms are similar for children, but they can also get pain in their ear and appear less active.
Infection rates and hospitalisations of flu are currently stable across all age groups, according to UKHSA data.
But cases will likely rise in the coming weeks, peaking around Christmas time, according to the NHS.
Rhinovirus, more commonly known as the common cold is a mild viral infection that circulates all year long.
Speaking to Sun Health, Professor John Tregoning, of Imperial College London says the bug usually peaks in about October but "never really goes away".
It's normal for a child to have eight or more colds a year, and adults two, official guidance states.
The NHS lists says a common cold can cause:
- A blocked or runny nose
- A sore throat
- Muscle aches
- A raised temperature
- Pressure in your ears and face
- Loss of taste and smell
The difference between a cold and the flu is that a cold does not typically cause such a sudden spike in temperature.
There may be more blockage in the sinuses and a feeling of stuffiness, as opposed to flu which is more like total body fatigue.
With a common cold, you can usually expect to see an improvement after less than a week, although this can vary.
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Rhinovirus infections have fallen slightly in recent weeks after surging at the beginning of September when the weather got cooler, and kids went back to school, the UKHSA data dashboard suggests.
Of the random group tested, 13 per cent were positive for the bug on October 30, compared with 24 per cent on October 2, UKHSA surveillance data suggests.
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