As Covid restrictions have relaxed and we head into winter, many are reporting symptoms that they can't shake off for days or even weeks, including sore throats, runny noses, headaches, coughs and temperatures.
With Covid case on the rise and symptoms, many people are unsure what virus they have got, and what course of action to take.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health for Lancashire County Council, said: "With a number of viruses circulating this winter, we should all take measures to protect ourselves and one another. Hand washing, ventilation and wearing a mask, especially in crowded settings, keep germs at bay.
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"If you feel unwell with cold and flu like symptoms, try to stay at home if you can.
"You should self-isolate and get a PCR test as soon as possible if you have one or more of the three symptoms: a high temperature; a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. Only leave your home to have a test.
"If you have other symptoms and are in doubt – get a test."
Why is ‘the worst cold ever’ spreading?
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, social distancing and face coverings meant that common illnesses such as the cold were at an all time low, however now that those restrictions have lifted it’s to be expected that the virus is back with a vengeance.
>>>Lancashire parents are warned to look out for signs of a viral infection in their children. Click here to find out more.
On Twitter, many have reported being struck down by the cold. One tweet appears to sum up the experiences of many, garnering over 15k likes and 1.5k retweets.
The post by Oliver Roll states: "Ok seriously… anyone else been struck down by this non-Covid chest/sinus infection? It’s been 2 weeks and I’m exhausted. Very grateful Miss Rona hasn’t paid me a visit but this is something else. Never been this continually ill before"
Have our immune systems been affected by lockdown?
Martin Michaelis, Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Kent, said that it’s unclear as of yet as to how lockdown has impacted our immune systems, saying “we have never experienced anything like this”.
He explained that not only is the immune system “incredibly complex” and in reality our understanding of it is “still limited”, but “we have never had a year like the past one characterised by a drastically reduced level of spread of infectious diseases in general”.
Although Professor Michaelis said he “would not expect a strongly increased general susceptibility to infectious diseases”, there are particular concerns this year, including “getting the flu vaccine right”.
He also added that the last 18 months “have reduced the ability to accurately predict which influenza virus variants will cause the next winter outbreak”.
How can I tell the difference between the cold and Covid-19?
The most common symptoms of Covid-19 can present very similarly to that of the common cold and the flu, so it can be difficult sometimes to tell the different viruses apart.
While the symptoms overlap, there are a few distinct differences that can help tell them apart.
The NHS says that the three main symptoms of Covid-19 are: a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, which lasts for more than a hour, or three of more coughing episodes in 24 hours, a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should take a lateral flow or PCR coronavirus test and self-isolate until you have a confirmed negative result.
On the other hand, the main symptoms of the common cold include a blocked or runny nose, a sore throat, headaches, muscle aches, coughs, sneezing, a raised temperature, pressure in your ears and face.
The main differences to note is that a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and pressure in your ears and face are not typically symptoms of coronavirus.
However, the Delta variant of Covid-19 can result in cold-like symptoms, including a runny nose. If you have this symptom in addition to the three previously listed Covid symptoms, you should isolate and get a test.
The ZOE Covid study identified the following as the main symptoms of the Delta variant: a headache, a sore throat, a runny nose and a high temperature.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Flu and coronavirus also share many similar symptoms, making it difficult to spot the difference.
While a high temperature and cough are common symptoms of both, it is unusual for the flu to cause a loss or change to your sense of taste and smell, whereas this is more common of Covid-19.
According to the NHS, the main symptoms of flu include: a sudden high temperature of 38C or above, 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.
If you are in doubt whether you have a cold, flu or coronavirus, it is safest to self-isolate and take a lateral flow or PCR test to confirm.
How do I treat the cold?
The NHS says that you can help recover from the cold faster by resting and sleeping, keeping warm, drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration, gargling salt water to soothe a sore throat, and you can also buy over the counter cough and cold medicines from a pharmacy or supermarket.
You should see a GP if:
Your symptoms do not improve after three weeks
Your symptoms get suddenly worse
Your temperature is very high or you feel hot and shivery
You’re concerned about your child’s symptoms
You’re feeling short of breath or develop chest pain
You have a long-term medical condition – for example, diabetes, or a heart, lung or kidney condition
You have a weakened immune system – for example, because you’re having chemotherapy
How to get a test for Covid in Lancashire
If you havesymptoms and are in doubt, take a PCR test. You can book a PCR test online or by calling 119.
The online booking system will ask if you have symptoms. Click "No" if you don't have any of the classic symptoms but still require a PCR test.
You will then be asked a number of questions until you get to one that asks you why you want to book a test.
Click the option that says: "My local council or health protection team has asked me (or someone I live with) to get a test, even though I do not have symptoms."
You will then be able to book an appointment to get tested.