Symptoms and Causes

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.

Symptoms of coronavirus

It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus to appear. They can be similar to the symptoms of cold and flu.

Common symptoms of coronavirus include:

Compare symptoms of coronavirus, flu and cold



Symptoms range from mild to severe


Abrupt onset of symptoms


Gradual onset of symptoms
Fever or chills Common Common Rare
Cough Common (usually dry) Common (usually dry) Mild
Fatigue Sometimes Common Sometimes
Aches and pains Sometimes Common Common
Sore throat Sometimes Sometimes Common
Headaches Sometimes Common Rare
Shortness of breath Sometimes No No
Runny or Stuffy Nose Rare Sometimes Common
Diarrhoea Rare Sometimes in children No
Sneezing No No Common

If you have any of these symptoms, you should behave as if you have the virus and self-isolate for 14 days. People in your household will need to restrict their movements.

Read more about how to restrict your movements and self-isolation

Hay fever symptoms

The pollen count is higher now so more people will experience hay fever. If you normally get hay fever, you will be familiar with the typical signs and symptoms. They usually occur about the same time every year.

Typical hay fever symptoms include:

  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • a runny or blocked nose
  • itchy red or watery eyes
  • itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears

While there are some similarities between the symptoms of coronavirus and hay fever, there are also ways to tell the difference.

Hay fever symptoms get worse when you are exposed to certain triggers. For example pollen, weeds or grass.

Hay fever does not cause a high temperature and most people with hay fever do not feel unwell.

While coronavirus can cause symptoms in your upper airways such as loss of smell or a blocked nose, it is usually associated with a high temperature, aches and pains and a cough.

Over the counter medicines from your pharmacy can help to treat the symptoms of hay fever. If you take steroid nasal sprays you should continue to do so.

Talk to your GP if you have severe or persistent symptoms.

Read more about hay fever

How coronavirus is spread

Coronavirus is spread in sneeze or cough droplets.

You could get the virus if you:

  • come into close contact with someone who has the virus and is coughing or sneezing
  • touch surfaces that someone who has the virus has coughed or sneezed on and bring your unwashed hands to your face (eyes, nose or mouth)

As it’s a new illness, we do not know how easily the virus spreads from person to person or how long the virus stays on surfaces. Spread is most likely from those who have symptoms.

The virus may survive for up to 2 days if someone who has it coughs or sneezes on a surface. Simple household disinfectants can kill the virus on surfaces. Clean the surface first and then use a disinfectant.

Follow this advice to protect yourself and others from coronavirus.