The new Omicron variant of coronavirus is spreading rapidly in the world. So what are the symptoms people should act on?
People should still look out for classic Covid symptoms:
- a new, continuous cough
- a fever/high temperature
- loss of or change to smell or taste
But researchers say for some people, having Covid can feel “more like a bad cold” with symptoms such as a headache, sore throat, and a runny nose.
The Zoe Covid study app asks hundreds of thousands of people to log their symptoms and the investigators have been looking at ones linked to both the dominant Delta variant and the new highly spreadable variant Omicron.
So far, the top five symptoms are:
- runny nose
- fatigue (either mild or severe)
- sore throat
If you think you may have Covid, it is important to get tested. Even people who don’t feel very ill can put others at risk.
Does a fever mean I have coronavirus?
A high temperature is 100.04F (37.8C) or above. A fever like this can happen when the body is fighting off any infection – not just coronavirus.
It is best to use a thermometer. But if you don’t have one, check if you, or the person you are worried about, feels hot to the touch on the chest or back.
A high temperature is unlikely with a cold.
If you have a fever, arrange a coronavirus test.
What about a cough?
If you have a cold or flu you may well have a cough, along with other symptoms.
Flu usually comes on suddenly and sufferers will often experience muscle aches, chills, headaches, tiredness, a sore throat, and a runny or stuffed nose, along with the cough. It feels worse than a heavy cold.
Colds tend to develop more gradually and are less severe, although they do still make you feel unwell. Along with a cough, there may be sneezing and a sore throat, and a runny nose. Fever, chills, muscle aches, and headaches are rare.
A coronavirus cough means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing fits or “episodes” in 24 hours.
If you usually have a cough because of a long-standing medical condition like COPD, it may be worse than usual.
You should get tested for coronavirus if you develop a new, continuous cough.
What does loss or change to smell or taste mean?
Coronavirus smell and taste loss ‘different from cold or flu’
Does sneezing mean I’ve got coronavirus?
Sneezing is not a classic symptom of coronavirus, and unless you also have a fever, cough, or loss of smell and taste, you do not need a test.
Sneeze droplets can spread infections though, so catch them in a tissue, put it in the bin and then wash your hands.
To help stop the spread of coronavirus and other illnesses:
- Wash your hands regularly
- Use a face covering when social distancing is not possible
- Try to keep your distance from those not in your household
How about a runny or stuffed-up nose or a headache?
A runny nose or a headache generally is not a reason to get tested for Covid.
But research suggests some people who test positive for Covid do have these symptoms.
US guidelines say people with the following symptoms may have Covid:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
What if I feel sick?
People with Coronavirus have a wide range of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. Some will have none at all, but can still be infectious.
Symptoms may appear up to two weeks after exposure to Coronavirus, but usually around day five.
Feeling breathless can be a sign of a more serious Coronavirus infection.
If you are having trouble breathing, contact your doctor or go to the hospital.
Experts believe it can prevent severe illnesses. Although the heavily mutated Omicron variant is said to evade vaccine immunity, it is the only way we can stay safe from COVID-associated complications.
The Omicron variant has been associated with ‘mild’ infections so far. However, that’s no excuse for letting your guard down.
Continue following COVID-appropriate behavior, wear your masks, maintain social distance and avoid social gatherings and crowded areas. The holiday season may be at our doors, but so is the virus.