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20th Dec 2021

Scientist explains how you can tell the difference between a cold and Omicron

Danny Jones

Difference between a cold and Omicron

Amidst regular cold and flu season, extra vigilance is essential

An expert on viruses has given his insight on how people can hopefully tell the difference between a cold and Omicron should they start to show cold, flu or coronavirus symptoms.

Tim Spector, who is the lead scientist on the ZOE Covid study – ongoing research into covid-19 around the globe providing regular updates on cases – recently told multiple news outlets that while there are clear commonalities, there are some key ways to tell the difference between a cold and Omicron.

“They do overlap but it seems that the onset of a cold is a bit more gradual”, says Spector, “but with Omicron people get headaches and fatigue rapidly if they have covid, whereas a cold develops over a few days.”

He also added that according to their data, around a quarter of people with a cold are estimated to actually have covid, whether knowingly or otherwise.

A doctor recently reiterated that night sweats are one of the five key symptoms that are being monitored among cases of the strain in South Africa, the country where the variant was first identified.

Meanwhile, Dr Angelique Coetzee – chair of the South African Medical Association – has pointed out that many of her Omicron patients have had different symptoms than their Delta-based covid-19 counterparts.

She has reportedly observed that the majority of those infected are presented with “extreme tiredness, mild muscle aches, scratchy throat and a dry cough”, often occurring quickly; unlike previous variants, loss of taste and smell is not thought to be as prominent a symptom – though it is worth reminding that the virus affects everyone’s immune system in different ways.

That being said, here are the main symptoms you need to be aware of. You can also watch Spector’s latest update on the Omicron variant and what to look out for as we approach Christmas:

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