‘It’s just a cold. I definitely don’t have coronavirus’

Man coughing into elbow

Two and a half year old Alexi had a runny nose. Her father argued against Alexi getting swabbed, “We all know kids don’t get COVID.” Marlina, who lives in a public housing complex, has a sore throat, like she gets every year. She just wants to get antibiotics. Steve has been working from home with a fever for the past week. He only ever goes out grocery shopping once a week. Sameera has a chronic cough from a lung disease and lives with her daughter, son-in-law, and her three grandchildren.

They all have one thing in common. None of them believed they had coronavirus, and all of them tested positive. Their stories are the norm rather than the exception.

It is simply not possible to know whether your symptoms are caused by coronavirus unless you get a test for it.

The best gauge of your level of risk may be related to the number of positive cases in your community, and the rate of new infections. If you are living in a suburb identified as a hotspot, your trivial cold symptoms are much more likely to be coronavirus. The trouble is, our test results are always one to two weeks behind. Once there are a few people testing positive in the community, we know that there are almost certainly going to be more.

For many people, Covid-19, will feel exactly the same as ‘just a cold’, so unless you have had a swab for it, you just don’t know.

To be honest, there is no test which is 100% reliable. This means that if you have mild symptoms and you get a swab to check for coronavirus which comes back negative, this does not guarantee you don’t have coronavirus. It’s unlikely you have it, but it’s definitely not impossible.

If your mild symptoms become more entrenched, or evolve into a more severe illness, or if you have other risk factors such as living in a hotspot, your GP may advise you to get tested again. Let’s say you get retested, and that is also negative. Two negative tests. You might feel confident you can buy some groceries, jump on the bus, or head to the office with a clear conscience.

You may be confident, but if you have any symptoms, then you probably want to do whatever you can to avoid other people picking up your viral illness. Given you were able to contract this virus during a pandemic with heightened public awareness means you’ve probably got something pretty contagious. At the very least, every person who contracts your trifling sniffle will be faced with the obligation to get swabbed and to self-isolate. They might have dependents who rely on them to go to work and pay the rent, to cook for their family, or to look after their elderly parents. They might work in healthcare, or care for people in the community. They are also socially and morally obligated to ensure their symptoms are not coronavirus, to get tested, and to self-isolate.

Having ‘just a cold’ means a whole lot more than it used to.

When to get tested:
It is recommended that anyone with cold and flu symptoms, loss of sense of smell or taste, or unexplained fever should be tested for COVID-19.

Other reported symptoms of COVID-19 include fatigue, diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting and loss of appetite._(fn)

How to get tested:
When you only have mild symptoms, drive through testing can be relatively convenient, and you don’t need a referral form your GP.

GP-led Respiratory Clinics provide assessments, testing, and advice for people with mild to moderate symptoms. You will almost certainly need to book in.

Find out your testing options from your local GP, or your Primary Health Network. You can locate your local PHN here.