Thursday, 27 Jan 2022

Expert explains the key symptom differences between Omicron and a cold

The arrival of the Omicron variant has completely shaken up the known information about Covid-19, and has forced boffins and politicians back to the drawing board in their bid to beat it.

However, it also brings changes for normal people that have grown used to the signs and symptoms of the variants of the virus that have come before.

Now, it is thought that Omicron may not share the three classic symptoms of the older variants – a new and persistent cough, a loss or change in taste or smell and a high temperature. Instead, many of the new symptoms have more in common with a cold.

The NHS has since asked the government to update the official list of symptoms to encourage more people to test for the virus.

So, what are the new symptoms of and how do they differ from the common cold?

Symptoms of the new Omicron variant

Research coming out of South Africa is indicating that there are six symptoms to look out for:

  • a scratchy throat
  • extreme tiredness
  • muscle aches
  • lower back pain
  • night sweats
  • a dry cough

According to the British Medical Journal, the symptoms of Omicron are cold-like and if you have them it is likely to in fact be Covid.

This means people shouldn't be waiting for a high temperature before taking tests.

Tim Spector, the lead scientist of the ZOE Covid Study app said: “The messaging from the government is just not clear on this,”

“I think most people know what cold-like symptoms are. I would probably just add [to the list]: ‘Have you got cold-like symptoms?’

"We need to educate people, go back to the basics, and say that if you’ve got cold-like symptoms keep away from people. You shouldn’t be waiting for the three classic symptoms.”

“If you do have symptoms of a mild or bad cold, it’s highly likely that you’ve got covid if you’re in an area like London at the moment,”

What are the key symptom differences between Covid and a cold?

While symptoms of the new Omicron variant differ and can mimick those of a cold, the key symptoms to look out for are headaches and fatigue according to experts.

Virologist and Professor of Molecular Oncology, Professor Lawrence Young, told the Sun: "There does seem to be an overlap with cold symptoms and there is an estimation from data from ZOE that a quarter of people who have colds actually have Covid.

"They do overlap, but it seems that the onset of a cold is a bit more gradual. But with Omicron people get headaches and fatigue rapidly if they have Covid. Whereas a cold develops over a few days."

He also said Brits should use more lateral flow tests and "flow before we go", meaning people should take tests before heading out of their house to meet up with others. This is especially true if you think you might have symptoms of any variant of the virus.

Professor Young added: "And it’s the same for parents with their kids too, if your kiddy has a cold then do a lateral flow test."

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