Runny nose, sore throat and headache should be added as Covid symptoms, docs say

A RUNNY nose, sore throat and headache should be added to the UK’s official list of Covid symptoms, doctors have said. 

GPs say cases of coronavirus are being missed because people think they do not have it, based on the NHS list of symptoms.

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The NHS say there are three main symptoms of Covid – a high temperature, a new and continuous cough, and a loss of taste and smell.

When booking a test through the Government website, people are told they should have one of these symptoms in order to get a test. 

But Dr Alex Sohal, a lecturer in primary care at Queen Mary University of London, says she has to tell patients to lie in order to get a Covid test because they don’t have the three main symptoms.

Writing to the Chief Medical Officer in the British Medical Journal, Dr Sohal describes her experience as a GP in Tower Hamlets with the backing of 140 east London GPs and medics. 

She said: “As GPs, we regularly review patients with mild symptoms – for example, a runny or blocked nose, sore throat, hoarseness, myalgia [muscle pain], fatigue, and headache – who subsequently turn out to be Covid-19 positive. 

“These symptoms are often inadvertently picked up while dealing with patients’ other more pressing health issues. 

“These patients have frequently not even considered that they may have covid-19 and have not self-isolated in the crucial early days when they were most infectious.”

The World Health Organization’s definition of Covid includes a runny nose, sore throat, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

“It is vital to now change the UK covid-19 case definition and test criteria to include coryza and cold, making them consistent with WHO,” Dr Sohal said.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), America’s health agency, also lists these symptoms, as well as officials in Australia and Canada.

Dr Sohal said the public should be told that if they have mild symptoms suggestive of Covid, such as a runny nose, they should not leave the home.

It’s important they do this in the first five days of symptoms when they are most infectious to others. 

Dr Sohal concludes: “This will help to get—and keep—us out of this indefinite lockdown, as covid-19 becomes increasingly endemic globally. Ignoring this will be at our peril.”

The Chief Medical Officer sets the official advice on symptoms, reflected on the NHS website. For England, this is Professor Chris Whitty.

The Department of Health and Social Care says it has acknowledged that Covid causes a long list of symptoms.

But it chooses to list the main three in order to strike a balance and "capture those most likely to have Covid-19, while not capturing a great number of people who do not".

A spokesperson said: "An expert and independent scientific group keeps the list of symptoms of Covid-19 under constant review as our understanding of the virus continues to evolve.”

RUNNY NOSE "ABSOLUTELY NOT COVID"

Researchers at King’s College London (KCL) have previously said a runny nose is unlikely to be Covid.

They look at the symptoms of millions of people who report to the Covid Symptom Study App to find trends in those with positive test results.

In September, when the reopening of schools and universities caused testing shortages, Prof Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at KCL, said that a runny nose, sneezing and congestion is highly unlikely to be Covid-19.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "What we are seeing is that if people are particularly worried at the moment about colds or Covid is that if they don't have this combination of symptoms quite severely its highly unlikely that their symptoms are actually related.

"We have to realise that perhaps 98 per cent of all tests done at the moment are negative so many people are getting it wrong.

"We've also shown some negative signs in our app so that if you do have a runny nose or congestion or sneezing that's really a sign that you absolutely do not have Covid."

Despite a runny nose not being one of the main symptoms, people should seek professional medical advice about it, such as by calling the NHS 111 coronavirus advice service or their GP.

It may be that you just have a cold, however combined with others symptoms it could be Covid.

The KCL researchers are in agreement that headache and fatigue are among the most common early symptoms of Covid – neither of which are on the NHS website.

A sore throat, loss of appetite, and shortness of breath are also commonly reported. Again, none of these are listed by the NHS.

WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON COVID SYMPTOMS?

Overall the KCL app has found the most frequent symptoms for adults are fatigue (87 per cent), headache (72 per cent), loss of smell (60 per cent), persistent cough (54 per cent) and a sore throat (49 per cent).

But there are now three new coronavirus strains health officials are concerned about – from Ken, South Africa and Brazil.

Data from the Zoe Symptom Tracker App revealed that there was "no evidence in a change in symptoms" for people who had caught the new Kent variant.

However, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) last week revealed that people who caught the Kent variant would have different symptoms to the original strain of the virus.


The report stated that people suffering with the Kent mutation are more likely to get a cough, sore throat, tiredness and muscle pain.

The largest change in symptoms between the two strains is people are much less likely to report high temperatures.

The study found no real difference in reports of shortness of breath or headaches from patients with either the novel strain or the mutation.

The NHS list of symptoms has largely remained unchanged over the past year, despite new and emerging evidence.

It added loss/change in taste and smell in May after KCL said there was overwhelming evidence it was a common sign of the disease.

KCL have previously warned “we have struggled to identify every case because of how differently Covid-19 affects people”. 

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