Super cold symptoms: what is the 'super cold' and how can I tell the difference between the flu and Covid-19?

The 'super cold' has swept across the UK with many people now feeling symptoms of the flu worse than previous years.

Monday, 15th November 2021, 11:24 am

As winter takes hold of the UK so does cold and flu season, with the UK Health Security Agency reporting a rise in calls to 111 about symptoms of viruses.

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Flu season is typically between October and March and parallels the onset of colder winter weather.

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As winter takes its hold on the UK, so does cold and flu season. Photo: PA

It is thought that there are three main reasons for the seasonal increase in viruses and infections.

Why are colds more prevalent in the winter?

Many viruses transmitted in the air by respiratory droplets spread better in cold, dry weather.

Our behaviour also tends to change in the winter, with people spending more time indoors where respiratory viruses transmit easier.

Finally, our immune systems do not perform as well in the winter due to lower levels of vitamin D and less exposure to sun.

What is the 'super cold'?

This year we have seen the emergence of a so-called 'super cold'- a cold that seems to have harsher symptoms than the usual common colds we see this time of year.

Many attribute it to the time we have spent inside as a result of the isolation rules last year, leading to stronger symptoms of colds and flu this year.

Despite what may feel like 'harsher symptoms' when we come down with a nasty winter bug, these infections are actually no more severe than in a typical winter.

However, our immunity to cold and flu viruses has waned over the past year so more people are susceptible to infection- this is what we are seeing happen across the UK.

How is a bad cold or flu different from Covid-19?

The main symptoms of Covid are as follows:

A high temperature – this 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 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

The common cold or a strain of flu may share these symptoms, but usually they are partnered with a sore throat, runny nose and body aches.

Vomiting and diarrhea are also common symptoms of the flu but not of Covid-19.

However, Covid-19 has been known to cause a runny nose or sore throat in younger people, so it is important that you obtain and take a lateral flow test as soon as possible if unwell.

How do I treat it?

The NHS website says:To help you get better more quickly you should:

Rest and sleep

Keep warm

Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains

Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your urine should be light yellow or clear)

Am I eligible for the flu jab?

You can have the flu jab if you:

are 50 and over (including those who'll be 50 by 31 March 2022)

have certain health conditions

are pregnant

are in long-stay residential care

receive a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick

live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)

frontline health or social care workers

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