Coronavirus: Unsure whether you have it? Expert reveals one of the ‘best predictors’

Coronavirus is a unique threat because it has pushed hospitals to the brink, damaged the UK economy and forced everyone to rethink how they lead their lives in a matter of months. Despite its devastating effects, it is still hard to grasp the scale of the impact because most communities remain unscathed. Adding to the disconnect is the sheer range of symptoms linked to COVID-19.


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The virus is a respiratory infection so many people will chalk their symptoms up to having a cold.

What’s more, hay fever season is underway so seasonal allergies are further muddying the waters.

If you are unsure whether your symptoms are a sign of COVID-19, Professor Claire Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society and a leading ear, nose and throat consultant surgeon, has provided some clarity.

After being contacted by a video producer called Ian Nuttall, 56, who noticed he had lost his sense of smell, Prof Hopkins said: “When you look at all the different symptoms, loss of sense of smell is actually one of the best predictors of Covid-19 infection.

“Much better than fever, and more prevalent and a stronger predictor than cough.”

Prof Hopkins is campaigning vigorously to get loss of sense of smell – anosmia – recognised by the World Health Organization and Public Health England as a coronavirus symptom.

Prof Hopkins said: “One in six patients will lose their sense of smell as an isolated symptom, really without getting any other associated symptoms.

“One in four will get it along with other symptoms, but right at the beginning of infection.”

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She added: “It is a good early marker of infection.”

The link between COVID-19 and a loss of smell has been bolstered by a study conducted by a team of researchers at King’s College London.

The team pored over 400,000 responses to a symptoms tracker app.

Of these 400,000 people, 1,702 said they had been tested for COVID-19, with 579 receiving a positive result and 1,123 a negative one.


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Among the ones who had coronavirus infection confirmed by a positive test, three-fifths (59 percent) reported loss of smell or taste.

What else did the researchers discover?

The tracker app also revealed:

  • 53 percent said they had fatigue or tiredness
  • 29 percent persistent cough
  • 28 percent shortness of breath
  • 10.5 percent suffered from fever

What should I do if I spot the above symptoms?

According to the NHS, to protect others, you must stay at home if you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).

How long must I self-isolate for?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, self-isolate for seven days, according to public health advice.

After seven days:

  • If you do not have a high temperature, you can stop self-isolating
  • If you still have a high temperature, keep self-isolating until your temperature returns to normal

Can I alleviate symptoms while self-isolating?

There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19), but you can often ease your symptoms at home until you recover.

According to the NHS, you should:

  • Get lots of rest and sleep
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration – drink enough so your pee is light yellow and clear
  • Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature if you are uncomfortable

“It’s important to get medical help if your symptoms get worse,” it adds.

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