Home Health & Wellness Can You Spot the Difference Between a Cold, Covid and Swine Flu? Full List of Symptoms Revealed

Can You Spot the Difference Between a Cold, Covid and Swine Flu? Full List of Symptoms Revealed

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Britain recently detected its first case of a new strain of swine flu, raising concerns among health officials about a potential outbreak. This discovery was made during routine flu surveillance when a patient from North Yorkshire sought medical attention for a cough. This new strain’s symptoms are challenging to distinguish, as they closely resemble those of common winter illnesses.

A new swine flu strain

The new H1N2 strain of swine flu, typically transmitted from pigs to humans, is rare in human-to-human transmission without prior exposure to infected animals. The patient from North Yorkshire had no known contact with infected animals, prompting a wider investigation. Health authorities, including UKHSA, are closely monitoring the situation and advise those feeling unwell, especially with exposure to pigs or contaminated environments, to consider testing.

Symptoms of swine flu

Key symptoms to watch out for include:

  • High temperature
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Sneezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

These symptoms overlap significantly with seasonal flu, certain Covid strains, and RSV (respiratory syncytia virus), the latter often not accompanied by a high temperature.

Swine flu can lead to severe complications like pneumonia and exacerbate existing conditions like diabetes or asthma. Symptoms warranting immediate medical attention include shortness of breath, severe vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, or confusion.

Symptoms of Covid

Covid symptoms often resemble those of regular flu, colds, RSV, and swine flu. While most people recover within a few weeks, the virus can lead to long-term Covid, especially in unvaccinated individuals. Key symptoms include:

  • High temperature or shivering
  • A new, continuous cough
  • Loss or change in sense of smell or taste
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tiredness or exhaustion
  • Aching body
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling sick or being sick

Symptoms of a common cold

Common cold symptoms, which peak within 2–3 days, include:

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Mucus dripping down the throat (post-nasal drip)
  • Watery eyes
  • Fever (less common)
  • Pressure in ears and face
  • Loss of taste and smell

Cold symptoms can last up to 14 days but should gradually improve.

Covid symptoms

Covid presents a wide range of symptoms that may appear 2–14 days after exposure. These can vary from mild to severe and change with new variants or vaccination status. At-risk groups include older adults and those with underlying health conditions. Symptoms include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • A new loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea



Emily Carter, PhD is a psychologist and health writer, specialising in behavioural health and wellness research.

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