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Hay fever, cold or COVID-19? Boots Chief Pharmacist deciphers the symptoms so we can all enjoy the great outdoors this summer

28 June 2022
News Healthcare
  • With some overlap in symptoms, Boots Chief Pharmacist, Marc Donovagives advice on how to tell the difference between hay fever, the common cold and COVID-19 

  • The health and beauty retailer hadeveloped a handy symptom checker listing the key symptoms and differences between the three

With the weather starting to brighten up, people across the country are looking forward to spending more time outdoors. Whilst summer brings lighter evenings and more sunshine, it also brings high levels of pollen in the air.

With the pollen forecast for most of the UK ‘high to very high’ this week,[1] it can be difficult to distinguish between hay fever, a common cold or even COVID-19, as some of the symptoms are similar between the different conditions.

To assist, health and beauty retailer Boots has created a useful symptom checker, to help people distinguish between the three.

Boots Chief Pharmacist Marc Donovan said: “Hay fever doesn’t cause a high temperature and most people do not feel unwell. Symptoms include sneezing, a runny or blocked nose, itchy red watery eyes or an itchy throat. To help keep symptoms in check, consider putting a barrier balm such as petroleum jelly around the nostrils to trap pollen and wear wraparound sunglasses to help keep pollen out of your eyes. There are a range of hay fever relief products available – from tablets to nasal sprays – and you can always speak to your pharmacist to find which products are suitable for you. If over the counter remedies are not proving effective, speak to your GP or visit our Boots Online Doctor.”*

On the common cold, Marc said: “Colds can still occur during warmer months, and usually involve sneezing and coughing, along with a sore throat, headache and sometimes a loss of taste and smell. You could consider taking pain killers to help ease aches or relieve a blocked nose with a decongestant nasal spray or decongestant tablets. You can always ask a member of our pharmacy team for advice on how best to treat a cold or to check if a treatment is suitable for you.”

Advising on the key symptoms of COVID-19, Marc said: “The original symptoms of COVID-19 that were recognised in the UK at the start of the pandemic included a high temperature, a new continuous cough and a loss of sense of smell or taste.  Since then, the list of symptoms has expanded to include shortness of breath, feeling tired or exhausted, aching body, headache, sore throat, blocked or runny nose, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, feeling sick or being sick.

“You should follow the latest government guidance for the part of the UK you are in. According to the NHS, you should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and either, you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to go to work or do your normal activities. It is also very important to take extra care around those who are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19.”

*Access to treatment is subject to consultation with a clinician to assess suitability. Charges and eligibility criteria apply.



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Boots is the UK’s leading health and beauty retailer with over 52,000 team members and 2,100 stores, ranging from local community pharmacies to large destination health and beauty stores.*

Boots serves its customers and patients for life as the leading provider of healthcare on the high street and the UK’s number one beauty destination. It offers an unrivalled depth and breadth of products, which incorporates its extensive own brand range and innovative portfolio of brands, including No7, the UK’s No1 skincare brand, Soap & Glory, Liz Earle Beauty and Sleek MakeUP.

2024 marks Boots’ 175th anniversary year. Founder John Boot opened a herbalist store in Nottingham in 1849 to offer an affordable alternative to traditional medicines. His son Jesse expanded the business to become a modern retailer and the biggest chemist in Britain. Throughout its history, Boots has listened, learned and innovated, and it continues to challenge itself to improve its products and services every day.

Boots is part of Walgreens Boots Alliance, which is a global leader in pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing retail.  More company information is available on

*Figures accurate as of 30 November 2023