After almost two years of lockdowns and self isolating, we haven't been exposed to the usual germs we would be throughout the year.
Now an illness we'd normally brush off is back with a vengeance – the common cold. But it isn't just any old cold. It's being described as "the worst cold ever".
With coronavirus restrictions easing, Brits are now socialising more than they have been over the past year.
It may come as no surprise that coughs and colds are on the increase – but it seems like a particularly nasty cold is currently spreading.
Sufferers are describing non-Covid symptoms that persist for several weeks, including what is being described as "sandpaper throat".
What is sandpaper throat?
If you hear people describing one of their cold symptoms as sandpaper throat, you may be wondering what it is.
It may sound dramatic, but sandpaper throat is actually just a really sore throat.
One person on Twitter explained: "Has anyone else had this cold, been nearly two weeks now, and feel even worse.
"Weird symptoms, apart from the sinus stuff, cough, throat like sandpaper, aches and exhaustion, my stomach feels a mess too. All Covid tests negative!"
Another said: "Throat feels like sandpaper, canny breathe and canny stop coughing."
A third person said: "Why is my throat feeling like sandpaper?"
According to Bolton-based GP GP, Dr Helen Wall, the fact that people have been socially distancing might have given way to "more virulent strains", which is why this illness is being described as the "worst ever".
She told Manchester Evening News: "People are saying that it feels much worse than a normal cold ever has.
"I wonder whether we have more virulent strains because it’s had a year off, more time to build itself up and change and become different strains.
"It probably is more likely to be a worse version of what we've had before. But also, we've been used to not having them for so long that it will feel worse."
What are the symptoms?
Many people are reporting a sore throat described as "sandpaper throat", chesty cough and runny nose, and it's very difficult to shift.
According to Dr Wall, doctors are hearing people are suffering from colds for "three, four, five weeks".
She added: "People are feeling like it's knocking the stuffing out of them and they're more tired.
"Generally, it's those same symptoms of that really heavy head cold, headaches, sniffles, feeling quite feverish at times."
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It's important to note that some symptoms of a cold and Covid-19 overlap – but there are differences to help tell them apart.
Symptoms of a common cold, according to the NHS, include:
- a blocked or runny nose
- a sore throat
- muscle aches
- a raised temperature
- pressure in your ears and face
- loss of taste and smell
What are the symptoms of Covid – and how can you tell them apart?
The main symptoms of Covid-19, according to the NHS, are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.
Professor Tim Spector previously appeared on This Morning to clear up any confusion.
He explained to Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield: “Many people – perhaps up to half of cases – are going unrecognised because they basically have symptoms that are very cold-like.
"So headache, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing – and the only one that gets into the top five is loss of smell or taste.
"We're now seeing that fever is very low down on the ranking of what we're seeing at the moment. Even rarer are things like shortness of breath or a persistent cough.
"It's a combination of factors but we've got to face the reality which is, most people out there with Covid are presenting with cold-like symptoms.”
If you have any of the symptoms of Covid-19, you should self isolate and get a PCR test.
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