Almost a year into the pandemic in the UK, we all now definitely know what to look for when it comes to COVID-19. The UK currently lists three key symptoms as the most common indicators of coronavirus; a fever, cough, and loss of taste/smell, but a scientific study released this month links four further symptoms to coronavirus.
The four symptoms that may also be an indicator of COVID include chills, a loss of appetite, headaches and achey muscles. The study, which was conducted by Imperial College London, assessed more than a million people to draw its conclusions. Swab tests and questionnaires were collected and analysed between June 2020 and January 2021, and researchers noticed that patients who reported these four symptoms – along with the classic ones we already know about – were most likely to test positive for coronavirus.
Currently, the criteria for being tested for COVID is limited to just the three core symptoms, but as more information is discovered by experts, it should help us to detect more cases of coronavirus before they have a chance to spread.
“These new findings suggest many people with COVID-19 won’t be getting tested – and therefore won’t be self-isolating – because their symptoms don’t match those used in current public health guidance to help identify infected people,” said Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT programme at Imperial. He added that he hopes the study’s findings “mean that the testing programme can take advantage of the most up-to-date evidence, helping to identify more infected people.”
The suggestion that other symptoms bar the obvious ones should be taken seriously as an indicator of a COVID infection is not a new one; recently, a group of 140 GPs wrote a letter published in the British Medical Journal to leading scientists requesting that new COVID-19 symptoms should be added to the official list.
The doctors urged the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, and Public Health England’s COVID-19 response director, Dr Susan Hopkins, to include cold-like symptoms including a runny nose, headaches, and a sore throat to the list.
“The national publicity campaign focuses on cough, high temperature, and loss of smell or taste as symptoms to be aware of — only patients with these symptoms are able to access a COVID-19 test online through the NHS test booking site. GPs have to advise patients to be dishonest to get a COVID test,” wrote Dr Alex Sohal, who led the group.
Currently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) lists the most common symptoms of coronavirus as:
But they also list some “less common symptoms” that people should be aware of, which include some overlaps with symptoms highlighted in Imperial’s recent study. The list includes:
The safest thing to do if you develop any of the less common and not-yet-officially-listed symptoms of coronavirus is to self-isolate anyway. That way, you don’t risk spreading any virus (COVID or otherwise) to anyone else, and can instead focus on getting better.
The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it’s possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you’re in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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