Omicron vs Flu

COVID shares symptoms with allergies and other illnesses and now the omicron variant is making things even more complicated when trying to figure out what you have.

New coronavirus
New coronavirus

With the rise of omicron cases nationwide, many want to know how to tell the difference between symptoms of COVID-19 and that of a common cold or flu.

“As we know, this virus is highly, highly contagious – much more than the previous variants,” said Dr. Hai Shao, infectious disease physician with Sharp Chula Vista.  

He mentioned that omicron symptoms are similar to previous COVID variants.

“They include fever, chills, headache, sore throat, and as it progresses, people will start having cough, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing,” said Dr. Shao.  

He pointed out that while many symptoms are similar between COVID-19 and a common cold or flu, there are certain symptoms exclusive to COVID.

“A unique feature of COVID-19 is loss of sense of smell and taste, which you will not find in common cold viruses,” said Dr. Shao. “The other thing is that a common cold tends not to give high fever and sometimes severe headaches, which omicron is reporting these symptoms as predominant.  If you do have those symptoms, it’s much more concerning that you may have gotten COVID than the common cold virus.”

Dr. Shao warned that people should be concerned about any symptoms that arise.

“Use some common sense,” said Dr. Shao. “Practice some infection control measures. Try to avoid going to a crowded place without a mask. Try not to be close to people without a mask until your symptoms resolve.”

With cold and flu season in full swing, some doctors warn that parents may not be able to differentiate their child’s cold and flu symptoms from COVID.

“Influenza is starting to go up. Other respiratory viruses are going up,” said Dr. Mark Sawyer, pediatric infectious disease specialist with Rady Children’s Hospital.  “And there’s no way for a parent to tell the difference between a common respiratory virus and a COVID infection. So any time a child gets sick, they need to be kept at home so that they don’t run the risk of spreading whatever it is they have, particularly if they have COVID.”

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