I'm a virologist and here's how to tell the difference between a cold and Omicron

I'm a virologist and here's how to tell the difference between a cold and Omicron

12/16/2021

OMICRON cases are climbing in the UK and experts have said that symptoms are likely to differ from the three traditional Covid symptoms.

Alongside the worry of being infected with Covid, most people are likely to suffer with a cold during the winter months.

The three symptoms outlined by the NHS include a new persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and smell.

But experts say symptoms are more like colds and medics have urged the NHS to update the list so that people know when to isolate and to get tested.

Bugs and infections are everywhere and it's important that you're able to distinguish between colds and Covid.

But with data showing that close to a quarter of people with a cold actually have Covid – how can you do that?

Speaking to The Sun,virologist and Professor of Molecular Oncology, Professor Lawrence Young said that Brits should be using lateral flow tests to our advantage and 'flow before we go'.

That, he explained, means taking a test before we meet up with others – especially if we have cold symptoms.

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He said: "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.

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"Whereas a cold develops over a few days.

"It’s hard to distinguish but we have lateral flow tests now and we should be ‘flowing before we go’.

"If you’re in any doubt at all then get take a lateral flow tests as we can do them in real time.

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

His comment's echo that of King's College London's Professor Tim Spector, who is the head of the ZOE Symptom Tracker App.

Prof Spector today said that people logging their symptoms through the ZOE app have cold-like symptoms, rather that the classic trio of Covid symptoms outlined by the NHS.

"So it’s slowly turning into a more symptomatic milder condition that just looks like a severe cold for many people.

"People need to know about it. Don't wait for a high temperature", he said.

He did however explain that symptoms of Covid aren't actually looking that different compared to what people had experienced with the Delta variant.

'MILD ILLNESS'

Prof Spector said that many people hadn't realised that the variant had turned into a more 'cold-like' disease.

"We already knew that Delta symptoms were milder than previous variants and it wasn’t lasting as long.

"We don’t yet have accurate data on Omicron. So far we are seeing fairly short time spans, fairly mild illness, nearly everyone has got better by five days, but a lot of the people are on the younger side and we haven’t got a lot of very sick people who end up going to hospital. 

"So far infections are looking mild and they will include headache, fatigue, sneezing."

Despite this – clinical observations coming out of South Africa – where the variant is wide spread, shows that there are five symptoms in particular that people should be looking out for.

These are a scratchy throat, mild muscle aches, extreme tiredness, a dry cough and night sweats.

Data coming out of South Africa also shows that lower back pain is another symptom.

GET A TEST

It's important that if you think you have Covid then you get a test and isolate in order to stop the spread of the virus.

These new symptoms could mean that many people are missing infections as a scratchy throat could be part of a cold, and many people could mistake back pain for common aches and niggles.

Medics in the UK have said that the best way to protect yourself from Omicron is to get your booster vaccine.

The Sun's Jabs Army are urging volunteers to come forward to help Give Britain a Booster.

Just last week a study revealed that a booster jab could keep us out of lockdowns.

Any two doses plus a Pfizer booster give up to 75 per cent protection, experts say.

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