Over the past 11 months, medical professionals have noted a bewildering array of Covid symptoms, from stomach discomfort, fatigue and headaches to rashes on the body and mouth known as the “Covid tongue”.
But three have remained the same: a new, persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of smell or taste.
This is one to watch out for – and one that we should isolate and book immediately to develop.
A group of 140 general practitioners wrote to Prof. Chris Whitty asking that runny nose be added to the official list of symptoms as many Covid-19 patients initially show signs of a cold
Health experts have also carefully pointed out that a runny nose is “highly unlikely” to be the virus.
In September, Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London who was involved in a large study tracking Covid symptoms, even said people shouldn’t worry if they catch a cold.
However, this could change. Last week, more than 140 general practitioners wrote to Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty urging the government to add mild cold symptoms to the official Covid symptom list.
Many of them, like Dr. Alex Sohal, a general practitioner in Tower Hamlets, London, and the lead author of the letter, say they regularly review patients who report these mild symptoms who are later diagnosed with Covid. Dr. Sohal said: “We check patients who mention cold-like symptoms almost casually, and a few days later they are diagnosed with Covid.” Often times they haven’t even thought that a runny nose could be Covid-19 and are obviously not self-isolating.
“This is really worrying considering that Covid is the most contagious in its early days.”
Other doctors tell similar stories. Dr. Vicky Marchant, a general practitioner in Essex, said, “My experience includes patients whose initial symptoms are runny nose and fatigue and who develop a cough a few days later that may have spread their virus around their contacts in the first few days of symptomatic infection . “Worryingly, health care workers say that many patients cannot get a test because they do not have at least one of the“ main symptoms. “As a result, general practitioners have encouraged their patients to lie about their symptoms in order to get a swab.
General practitioners want Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty to add mild cold symptoms to the list as the Covid-19 virus is particularly contagious in its early days
Maddie Shah, a nurse in Waltham Forest and Redbridge, said, “The majority of the positive Covid cases I’ve seen had headaches initially, some with runny nose and diarrhea. People have to lie to get a test. “
The general practitioners also point out that the World Health Organization is already including cold symptoms as part of their Covid symptoms. Virus experts agree the government’s Covid symptoms need an update.
Prof. Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, said, “It is difficult to find common symptoms for a virus. But for someone who mutates this quickly, it’s really challenging. “
Previously, researchers at King’s College London who developed the Covid Symptom Study, an app that studies symptoms in more than four million users worldwide, ruled out a runny nose as a symptom of Covid. Since the summer, data from the Covid symptom study led by Prof. Spector has shown a discrepancy between the official “main symptoms” and the experiences of Covid patients. According to the app, fatigue and headaches are more common than a cough, fever or loss of smell. In late January, Prof. Spector published a study that indicated that high temperature may not even be a reliable indicator of Covid in the elderly. “If you follow this advice, you will miss half the infections,” he said. With the appearance of new mutations of Covid, minor cold symptoms may become more common. Last week, data from the Office of National Statistics showed that people infected with the Kent variant were more likely to experience mild coughs, sore throats, fatigue and headaches than those who contracted the virus when the pandemic began.
Prof. Young said, “We are seeing the virus adapt to our bodies in real time. It is possible that it could become more contagious, but milder. We have seen an increase in cold symptoms, which are very different from those at the beginning of the pandemic . “
Doctors also argue that patients should be especially suspicious if they develop a runny nose, as cold infections are lower than ever. In December, there was about one reported case of the common cold per 100,000 people, according to the Royal College of GPs – about 27 times lower than the average rate. These data are limited by the fact that far fewer people have reported their common cold in the middle of a pandemic, but that is still a surprisingly small number.
The government has increased the number of people being tested for Covid-19, such as this center in Walsall, to try to find people with the virus who are not showing symptoms
Dr. Sohal said, “The flu and colds have gone down a lot this year. We’re not suggesting that all runny noses are Covid, but the possibility exists. “
An Essex secondary school teacher who asked to remain anonymous said he tested positive for Covid in mid-December but went to school for three days before receiving a test as his only symptom was a runny nose.
He said, “I didn’t think anything about it because my symptoms didn’t match the instructions.”
It wasn’t until he took part in a local testing initiative set up to tackle rising rates in Essex that he found out he had Covid. By then, he believes the damage has been done. “By the time I took my test, I had already spent several days teaching.”
Dr. Sohal says that since the publication of the letter to Prof. Whitty from Dr. Susan Hopkins, Associate Director of Public Health England, who has promised to be included in an ongoing symptom review.
Dr. Sohal adds, “There is no information about when exactly this will happen.”