Covid symptoms: one ‘serious’ sign of coronavirus listed by WHO is missing from updated NHS list

The newly updated NHS Covid symptom list is missing a ‘serious’ sign of coronavirus infection that is listed by the World Health Organisation and the Centre for Disease Control

A symptom of Covid has been missed off the recently updated NHS list, but is included in a list by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The NHS quietly added nine new coronavirus symptoms to its official list last week, more than two years into the pandemic.

Previously, only a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss or change to sense of smell and taste were included, but this list of three has now been extended to include 12 symptoms in total.

The WHO and the CDC both list confusion as a serious symptom of Covid (Composite: Kim Mogg / JPIMedia)The WHO and the CDC both list confusion as a serious symptom of Covid (Composite: Kim Mogg / JPIMedia)
The WHO and the CDC both list confusion as a serious symptom of Covid (Composite: Kim Mogg / JPIMedia)

The change reflects the diversity of symptoms being reported by people infected with the virus over the last two years as more variants have emerged.

The full list now includes:

  • a high temperature or shivering (chills) – a high temperature means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • an aching body
  • a headache
  • a sore throat
  • a blocked or runny nose
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling sick or being sick

The NHS added that symptoms of Covid are very similar to symptoms of other illnesses, such as colds and flu.

The Omicron variant in particular has been found to cause symptoms that are akin to a common, with a runny nose, headache and sore throat being among the most common signs of infection.

Which symptom has not been included?

The WHO and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) both list confusion as a symptom of coronavirus, but this has not been included on the NHS list.

Confusion is listed as a “serious symptom” by the WHO and anyone who suffers with this is advised to seek immediate medical attention.

The symptom is listed alongside difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, loss of speech or mobility, and chest pain in this category.

The CDC also includes confusion in its list of serious symptoms that require emergency medical attention, alongside trouble breathing, chest pain, inability to wake or stay awake, and pale or grey discoloration of the lips and nails.

The NHS does not recognise confusion as an official coronavirus symptom at the moment, but it explains that signs of delirium can include the following:

  • When a person is unable to think or speak clearly or quickly
  • When a person does not know where they are
  • When a person is struggling to pay attention or remember things
  • When a person sees or hears things that are not there

Is confusion the same as ‘brain fog’?

Confusion is not to be mixed up with ‘brain fog’, as the latter relates to when a person has problems with their memory or concentration.

Brain fog is recognised as a common symptom of Long Covid, with people reporting feeling forgetful, suffering with mental fatigue and having poor concentration levels for several weeks after testing positive.

NHS Inform states: “"Brain fog can feel similar to the effects of sleep deprivation or stress.

“It’s not the same as dementia and does not mean structural damage to the brain."

Most people will make a full recovery from coronavirus within 12 weeks, but for some symptoms can persist for much longer and may change over time.

Those who are still experiencing symptoms for longer than 12 weeks are said to have ‘Long Covid’, and the chances of developing long-term effects does not appear to be linked to how ill you were when you were infected.

The NHS lists the following as the most common Long Covid symptoms:

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration ("brain fog")
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • heart palpitations
  • dizziness
  • pins and needles
  • joint pain
  • depression and anxiety
  • tinnitus, earaches
  • feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
  • rashes

Anyone who is suffering with Long Covid is advised to speak to their GP if symptoms are not improving or are impacting on daily life.

You can find more information to support your recovery from coronavirus on the Your COVID Recovery website.