Is it COVID, allergies or cold and flu? Symptoms of an Omicron COVID infection and how to tell the difference between infections

While thousands of Australians continue to test positive for Omicron every day, thousands more are wondering if their recent symptoms are caused by the chilly environment, the common cold, the flu or are in fact coronavirus.

Experts say testing is the only real way to know the answer, but until then, health officials say to treat potential symptoms, assuming they’re related to COVID-19.

“If you think it’s a cold, if you think it’s the flu, it’s probably COVID,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said at a news conference late last month.

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“We ask you to stay home if you are not feeling well.”

In a more recent Facebook Live, Dr. Arwady revealed that a sore throat is still the most common virus symptom reported, especially in mild breakthrough infections.

Experts say testing is the only real way to know if you have COVID-19. File. Credit: Getty Images

“We definitely see sore throat being a predictor in that group,” she said.

She repeated previous calls for people who have flu or cold symptoms to assume they have COVID “until proven otherwise”.

“Even if it’s a sore throat, it doesn’t matter what it is,” she said. “I’ve said this to my own staff, it’s what I do myself… if you’re sick, even a little sick, stay home.

Now truer than ever, because sick, even a little sick, until proven otherwise with a test – that’s COVID. That’s how we deal with it, that’s how you should deal with it.”

“They may just feel like they have a cold” – Dr. Arwady

Dr. Arwady said that now, as Omicron cases continue to spread, those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are not necessarily “getting seriously ill and running a fever for days and having difficulty breathing,” but are instead experiencing milder illness.

“They may just feel like they have a cold,” she said.

“That’s good because they don’t get seriously ill. They don’t pose a threat to the health care system, but it’s certainly a concern because they have the potential to pass on to others.”

Prominent Omicron Symptoms

Dr. Katherine Poehling, an infectious disease specialist and member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, told NBC News last week that coughing, congestion, runny nose and fatigue appear to be prominent symptoms with the Omicron variety.

But unlike the Delta variant, many patients do not lose their taste or smell.

The evidence so far, according to Dr. Poehling, is anecdotal and not based on scientific research. She also noted that these symptoms may only reflect certain populations.

Still, data showed that the most common symptoms to date are coughing, fatigue, congestion and a runny nose.

Medical personnel secure a sample from a person at a drive-thru Coronavirus COVID-19 testing station. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Doctors have reported some cases of what is called “flurona” or a double infection of both COVID and flu at the same time.

But according to Dr. Mark Loafman, president of family medicine for Cook County Health, there’s no clear way to tell the difference between COVID or the flu — nor really whether you have both.

While the symptoms are nearly identical, there may be subtle differences, Loafman said.

“One thing is that the fever in flu, in flu, tends to be a little bit higher, but that’s subtle,” he said.

“So 101F (38.3C), 102F (38.9C) fever can occur with COVID, the fever can get a little higher with flu, but it can also be low grade.

“So aside from that, you know, cough, headache, nasal congestion… nasal congestion, some shortness of breath – all of that is very, very common with both the flu and COVID and I think most of us wouldn’t really. to see the difference.”

Known COVID symptoms

According to the Australian government, the symptoms of COVID include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • a fever
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • headache or fatigue
  • muscle or joint pain
  • nausea or loss of appetite
  • diarrhea or vomiting
  • temporary loss of smell or altered taste.

“Symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild to severe,” the health ministry said.

“Some people recover easily and others get very sick very quickly.”

It admitted that COVID-19 symptoms can be similar to some common illnesses, such as the common cold and flu, or allergies, and has developed a COVID-19 symptom checker that allows people to answer a series of questions to determine whether they need medical attention. Search.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging those who have or may have COVID-19 to watch for emergency warning signs and seek immediate medical attention if they experience symptoms, including:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake up or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin color

For the flu, the Department of Health lists the following symptoms:

  • runny nose or sneezing
  • cough or sore throat
  • fever and chills
  • headache
  • pain in the body
  • vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children).

For allergies, some people may experience symptoms of rhinitis and conjunctivitis, including sneezing, runny nose, congestion, or red, watery, or itchy eyes

How to prepare for COVID

Earlier this month, as cases rose across the country, Deputy Chief of Medical Services Michael Kidd said it was “likely” that many Australians would contract the virus in the days and weeks to come – if they hadn’t already .

Fortunately, he said, due to the high vaccination rate, most would experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all and manage their entire infection from the comfort of home.

Unfortunately, once you have tested positive, it is often too late to go to the supermarket or pharmacy to replenish your stock.

Professor Kidd suggested all households make sure they have paracetamol or ibuprofen in the house in case you are diagnosed with COVID-19 to “control fever and aches and pains”.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd. Credit: LUKE COCH/AAPIMAGE

“You should drink plenty of fluids. This could be water, but you may also benefit from using electrolyte powder or solution, which can be purchased from your supermarket or pharmacy.”

Those taking prescription medication regularly should continue to do so, he said, and make sure they have a two-week supply on hand in case they need to self-isolate at home.

Health authorities have also previously suggested bed rest, throat lozenges and staying hydrated with water.

A supply of rapid antigen tests is also handy to have – if you can find one – for testing roommates.

Is it COVID, allergies or cold and flu? Symptoms of an Omicron COVID infection and how to tell the difference between infections

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