Differences between Covid, Strep A, flu, and common cold including symptoms

While the Christmas period is full of fun and family time, it is also when millions fall ill with everything from common colds to coronavirus.

With so many different illnesses around, it can prove difficult when trying to determining what you've been struck down with, especially when certain symptoms are the same for each one.

The UK is currently experiencing high numbers of COVID-19 and cases of Strep A, as well as in influx in people being hit with winter flu.

To help people to manager their symptoms and ensure they know what they've contracted, the NHS has listed the symptoms for each illness on their website. Let's take a look…


  • a high temperature or shivering (chills) – a high temperature means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)

  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours

  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

  • shortness of breath

  • feeling tired or exhausted

  • an aching body

  • a headache

  • a sore throat

  • a blocked or runny nose

  • loss of appetite

  • diarrhoea

  • feeling nauseous or vomiting

Coronavirus symptoms are "very similar" to those of other illness, such as colds and flu, according to the NHS.

It added: “Try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and either a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to go to work or do your normal activities.

“Take extra care to avoid close contact with anyone who is at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. You can go back to your normal activities when you feel better or do not have a high temperature.”

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  • 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.

Strep A

  • flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature, swollen glands or an aching body

  • sore throat (strep throat or tonsillitis)

  • a rash that feels rough, like sandpaper (scarlet fever)

  • scabs and sores (impetigo)

  • pain and swelling (cellulitis)

  • severe muscle aches

  • nausea and vomiting.

Strep A cases are at a record high currently. Most cases can be treated with antibiotics and are not serious, but in rare cases, Strep A can cause serious problems.

It is important to get an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if you are experiencing severe symptoms.

Common Cold

  • a blocked or runny nose
  • a sore throat
  • headaches
  • muscle aches
  • coughs
  • sneezing
  • a raised temperature
  • pressure in your ears and face
  • loss of taste and smell

The common cold does the rounds every year, but many of the symptoms are associated with other illnesses including a raise temperature and loss of taste and smell.

Most should feel better within a week and symptoms can be treated without a visit to the GP.

For further information head to the NHS website.


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