Friday 15th Jan 2021 |

As we prepare ourselves for the Winter cold and flu season, we are now faced with the daily news of the resurgence of Covid-19 which can affect the elderly, vulnerable and those who suffer with underlying health conditions. 

Defining the symptoms of a common cold and those of the Covid-19 virus can seem daunting.   Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Medical Broadcaster gives us clear advice on how to differentiate between the two and offers some simple solutions to help us treat the symptoms of a cold whilst at home.


It would be completely understandable to associate the symptoms of the common cold with Covid-19.  Both are highly contagious, start in the upper respiratory tract, can be transmitted through the air or from touching surfaces, and can present some similar physical symptoms like a raised temperature, body aches, headache and a cough.   A runny or blocked nose or a sore throat are, however, less common with Covid-19 than with the common cold.  If you have these symptoms but don’t have a fever, new continuous cough (coughing for more than an hour or at least three significant bouts of coughing in 24 hours) or a loss of (or change to) your sense of smell or taste, you don’t need to self-isolate and get tested for COVID-19. 

Most people who get symptoms from COVID-19 infection will develop at least one of these three key symptoms, although not necessarily all and certainly not all at the same time.  The average time to develop COVID-19 symptoms is 5 days after you’ve been exposed to the virus, although this can range from 2 – 12 days after exposure.  Many people with COVID-19 also experience profound tiredness and breathing problems, which are much less common with the common cold.

Generally speaking, nasal congestion, sneezing and a runny nose are more typical of the common cold and symptoms can appear 2 – 3 days after exposure, only last a few days and are usually milder in severity.  If the symptoms do not start to improve within a few days, or worsen, please use the online tool for advice. 


Boosting our immune system is the best defence we can all do to help us cope with the Winter cold and flu virus season.   It’s especially important during the darker days when we get less sunlight.  Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, especially those with brighter colours, give you a good dose of vitamins: the vitamin C and antioxidants they contain in particular are great little cold fighters.  

common cold

Cooking vegetables in warm wholesome soups can give you that extra cosy feeling at the same time as giving your body the nutrients it needs.  Taking vitamin supplements like Vitamin D and Zinc will also help support the immune system.  Some products like ColdZyme® can help protect against or can shorten the duration of a cold if used at an early stage, by acting on the virus itself.   It works by forming a fast-acting protective barrier in the mouth and throat where colds and flu develop.


common cold

Staying hydrated is always important, but when you have a cold you can become dehydrated.  My advice is to drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids and to limit your caffeine intake to about 400mg (equivalent to about 4 cups of brewed coffee or 8 cups of tea) a day: at levels above this, caffeine stops rehydrating and can act as a diuretic, making you pee out more fluid.  It’s also worth avoiding sugary drinks which may give you a short-term energy boost, but which will lead to your blood sugar slumping back down rapidly, leading to tiredness.


Getting enough sleep is vital, especially when we are ill.  This is when the body is working at its hardest to fight infection and inflammation.  That said, when you are all congested and stuffy it can be more difficult to sleep.  And if the mucus trickles down the back of your throat onto your soft palate, it can make you cough.

common cold

Try and sleep with a propped-up pillow to allow mucus to drain.  Popping a hot (not too hot!) towel over your upper face can feel soothing but also will dilate the nasal passages giving you a little respite from the congestion and allow you to drift off.  Similarly, a humidifier or bowl of water in the bedroom creates moisture allowing you to breathe more easily.


A warm bath before bed can be very soothing when you have a cold and can leave you feeling comfortably drowsy and better able to sleep.  


It may seem odd to suggest exercise when you are feeling poorly, but it’s surprising how much just a 20-minute walk in the fresh air can help your breathing, boost your energy levels and ease your symptoms.   

ColdZyme® (20ml £17.50) (7ml one cold application £9.89)is available from Amazon, independent pharmacies and Boots stores nationwide.  Use ColdZyme® by pointing the nozzle towards the throat and spray 2 puffs (1 dose) every two hours to help protect against infection or until the symptoms are gone.

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