A runny nose and symptoms of the common cold should be treated as possible signs of Covid, doctors have warned.
Patients are regularly presenting classic cold symptoms like a sore throat, a runny or blocked nose, and headaches before testing positive for coronavirus, GPs said.
Now, a group of 140 east London general practitioners and health care professionals have signed an open letter to chief medical officer Chris Whitty, urging that the common ailments be added to the list of the possible symptoms.
They warn that ‘ignoring this will be at our peril’ as those with a mild infection are unwittingly spreading the disease, thinking it is just a winter bug.
Dr. Alex Sohal, a GP in Tower Hamlets, east London, said: “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 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-19 test.
“It is vital to now change the UK Covid-19 case definition and test criteria to include coryza [runny nose] and cold, making them consistent with WHO.
“Tell the public, especially those who have to go out to work and their employers, that even those with mild symptoms (not only a cough, high temperature, and a loss of smell or taste) should not go out, prioritizing the first five days of self-isolation when they are most likely to be infectious.
“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.”
She added that the World Health Organisation’s definition includes other symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, vomiting, and diarrhea.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman was reported to have said the list of symptoms was under constant review.