Common cold or Omicron? How to spot the difference – Dr Amir shares unique Omicron signs

Doctor says 'drastic measures' are needed to stop Omicron spread

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The numbers make for sobering reading: last week the daily cases of coronavirus broke records on three consecutive days. On Friday, 93,045 daily cases of coronavirus were reported, up from 88,376 cases on Thursday and 78,610 on Wednesday. This rapid increase is being driven by the Omicron variant, which is far more transmissible than previous variants. Naturally, people with cold-like symptoms will be wondering whether they have a regular cold or Omicron.

There is no simple way to tell the difference between a cold and Covid, noted Doctor Amir Khan on ITV’s Lorraine.

It is “really hard”, he said. However, there are some unique characteristics in the symptom profile of the Omicron variant.

According to Doctor Amir, there are growing reports of a “scratchy throat and muscle aches” from people infected with Omicron.

These symptoms do not fall under the classic three – loss of smell/appetite, new cough and fever – associated with the previous strains of coronavirus, he said.

“Only 50 percent of cases report with the original symptoms,” the doc said.

What does Doctor Amir recommend?

If you start to experience cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose or headache, get a PRC test and assume you have Covid until it comes back negative, he advised.

Treat it like you’re “guilty until proven innocent”, he recommended.

PCR tests – mainly for people with symptoms, they’re sent to a lab to be checked – can be ordered through the Government’s website.

The advice to assume cold-like symptoms are the result of Omicron comes after an initial analysis of the ZOE Covid study data from positive cases in London. 

The analysis found no clear differences in the early symptoms (three days after test) between Delta and Omicron.

What’s more, the symptoms reported in the study were overwhelmingly cold-like:

  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Fatigue (either mild or severe)
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat.

In response to the findings, Professor Tim Spector, who heads up the ZOE app, said: “Hopefully people now recognise the cold-like symptoms which appear to be the predominant feature of Omicron.” 

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