Omicron symptoms: How to tell the difference between a cold and new Covid variant

Brits are not just having to worry about whether their cold symptoms are Covid – but whether it is the new Omicron variant. Here’s how you can tell the difference

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Coronavirus: Tim Spector discusses Omicron symptoms

It’s that time of year again where many Brits are coming down with seasonal colds. Every winter there is a rise in common colds and other respiratory infections.

Earlier in the Autumn Brits were dealing with the ” worst cold ever “, after the return to schools and the end of coronavirus restrictions.

But now coronavirus infections are rising, and with the new Omicron variant on the rise, Brits need to make sure their colds aren’t actually Covid.

Although believed to be more transmissible, there have been reports that Omicron is causing mild symptoms.

So how can you be sure it’s a cold and not Covid? Here’s everything you need to know.

What are the symptoms of Omicron?

Omicron symptoms include a dry cough


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The symptoms of the Omicron variant of coronavirus appear to be very different from previous strains, according to researchers.

Some are reporting mild symptoms that are different the Delta strain.

Early reports show Omicron has five district symptoms of its own, which are:

  • A scratchy throat (as opposed to a sore throat )
  • A dry cough
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Mild muscle aches
  • Night sweats

However, according to the NHS website, there are still three main recognised symptoms of Covid. They are:

  • A high temperature
  • A new, continuous cough
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

What are the symptoms of a cold?

Your cold symptoms could be Covid


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According to the NHS, the symptoms of a cold can come on gradually, and include:

  • A blocked or runny nose
  • A sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Coughs
  • A raised temperature
  • Pressure in your ears and face
  • Loss of taste and smell

How can you tell the difference between a cold and Covid?

Make sure you get a test if you think you might have Covid


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As many of the symptoms of Covid and a cold are the same, it can be tricky to know which ones you have.

Professor Tim Spector previously appeared on This Morning to clear up any confusion.

He explained to Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield: “Many people – perhaps up to half of cases – are going unrecognised because they basically have symptoms that are very cold-like.

“So headache, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing – and the only one that gets into the top five is loss of smell or taste.

“We’re now seeing that fever is very low down on the ranking of what we’re seeing at the moment. Even rarer are things like shortness of breath or a persistent cough.

“It’s a combination of factors but we’ve got to face the reality which is, most people out there with Covid are presenting with cold-like symptoms.”

What should you do if you have Covid symptoms?

Getting a test is the only way to know if you have Covid for sure


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It’s incredibly important that if you have any of the symptoms of Covid-19, including the ones associated with Omicron, you should get tested.

Professor Tim Spector, from Britain’s Covid Zoe app, said it was more important than ever to get tested.

Data from the Zoe study app suggests that about half of all the Delta cases are being “missed” because they don’t present the “classic” Covid symptoms.

He added: “Omicron is probably more, much more similar to the mild variants we’re seeing in people who have been vaccinated with delta than anything else.

“And so it is going to be producing cold-like symptoms that people won’t recognise as Covid if they just believe the official government advice.”

Professor Irene Petersen, a professor of epidemiology and health informatics at University College London (UCL), added: “A runny nose and headache are symptoms of many infections, but may also be the first symptoms – and only symptoms – of Covid. Therefore, if you have these symptoms, I’d encourage you to use lateral flow tests (LFT) for a couple of days.”

The only way to know the difference for sure is to take a Covid test. You can order a free PCR test off the government website.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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