What are the symptoms of Omicron and Covid? Here's what to look for and how to tell whether you have Covid-19, flu or a cold

CASES of the Omicron variant continue to rise at a rapid rate across the country.

Saturday, 8th January 2022, 12:58 pm

The strain, which was first identified in South Africa, has been found in Portsmouth – including in Solent Infants School.

A total of 114,625 Omicron cases have now been confirmed across the country, the UKHSA announced on Friday, December 24.

But it is not just the new variant floating around there is also Covid and other seasonal viruses like colds and flu – and it means there is a high chance you could be feeling a little under the weather.

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People sitting on a bench wearing masks in Canoe Lake. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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But how can you tell the difference? And what are the difference in symptoms.

Here’s what the NHS website and other sources say:

Coronavirus symptoms

These are the key differences between a cold, flu or Covid

After 19 months of the pandemic, you are probably well versed in the symptoms of Covid, but if you need reminding – here’s what the NHS website says.

The main symptoms for adults and children:

- a high temperature – this 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 (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

This is what coronavirus looks like. Picture: Shutterstock

- a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

However according to the Zoe Covid study there are other symptoms to look out for – especially if you are fully vaccinated.

These include:

- Runny nose

- Headache

- Sneezing

- Sore throat

Which sound a lot more like a common cold or flu. However the important distinguishing symptom remains the loss of smell or taste – known as anosmia.

Omicron variant

NBC News reports that prominent symptons for Omicron are:

- Cough

- Fatigue or tiredness

- Congestion and runny nose

The website reports that the lose of taste and smell is less common in Omicron cases.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, has said that in her experience the symptoms were ‘mild’.

She said: ‘What we are seeing clinically in South Africa, and remember I’m at the epicentre – that’s where I’m practising – it’s extremely mild. For us, that’s mild cases.’

Dr Coetzee told the Andrew Marr Show she first encountered the variant in a man in his early 30s who presented with tiredness and a mild headache, but none of the usual coronavirus symptoms.

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and lead scientist on the Zoe study, said: ‘Even with Omicron appearing to be more transmissible than Delta, early signs, including new reports from Zoe users, show that it is breaking through in vaccinated people, but it’s causing milder cold-like symptoms.’

In order to find out if you have the Omicron variant, you need to take a PCR test.

The BBC reports that Omicron has what's known as an ‘S-gene dropout’ – this isn’t present in the Delta variant, in most cases – so can help to detect the strain.

However a full genomic sequencing is needed to make sure you have

Common cold symptoms

On the NHS website, it says that cold symptoms come on gradually and can include:

- a blocked or runny nose

- a sore throat

- headaches

- muscle aches

- coughs

- sneezing

- a raised temperature

- pressure in your ears and face

- loss of taste and smell

The symptoms are the same in adults and children. Sometimes symptoms last longer in children.

Flu symptoms

These are the signs of flu to watch out for, according to the NHS.

- a sudden high temperature of 38C or above

- an aching body

- feeling tired or exhausted

- a dry cough

- a sore throat

- a headache

- difficulty sleeping

- loss of appetite

- diarrhoea or tummy pain

- feeling sick and being sick

What to do if you have Covid symptoms?

- Get a PCR test (test that is sent to a lab) to check if you have COVID-19 as soon as possible.

- Stay at home and do not have visitors (self-isolate) until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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