With close to 85 cases of the Omicron variant in India, there is a need to step-up precautions by getting vaccinated and following all safety protocols. But, with winter being the season of common cold and cough, it also becomes extremely essential to know about the symptoms of the new variant to avoid confusion and begin correct treatment.

Symptoms of Covid and common cold are very similar, and it can be tricky to tell one from the other only based on symptoms such as headache, scratchy throat, and runny nose. “Loss of smell, when present, often rings the bells for Covid testing for many which otherwise may not,” Dr Trupti Gilada, Infectious Disease Specialist, Masina Hospital, Mumbai told indianexpress.com.

Reportedly, vaccinated patients who have been infected have exhibited mild symptoms.

Dr Shuchin Bajaj, founder director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals said that on the basis of initial reports “Omicron has five distinct symptoms of its own, which are: a scratchy throat (as opposed to a sore throat), dry cough, extreme tiredness, mild muscle aches and night sweats.

“Whereas, the symptoms of cold include a blocked or runny nose, sore throat, headaches, muscle aches, coughs, a raised temperature, pressure in your ears and face and loss of taste and smell. As many of the symptoms of both the conditions are similar, it’s essential to get yourself tested if you experience any,” he said.

When to get tested?

Addressing how to prevent the spread of the new variant, Dr Viny Kantroo, Consultant Respiratory, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals mentioned in a YouTube live session that one should seek testing if they feel they could have been exposed to a large gathering recently.

“At the moment, when there is a new variant, we should not be taking it easy and if you have any kind of cold or flu-like symptoms and body ache, you should consult your doctor and get tested, especially if you have history of travel or attending a mass gathering. But yes, if you have frequent history of allergies and are sneezing frequently throughout the day, but do not have any kind of fever or body ache, then you can take a day to see if the symptoms settle down,” she said.

Dr Gilada is quick to point out how many people are refraining from getting testing. “Many individuals out there with Covid aren’t getting tests done because it feels just like a common cold. We are, however, requesting anyone with flu-like symptoms to isolate themselves and follow all the necessary protocols while also getting a Covid test at the earliest. This prevents exposure to other individuals and saves the panic that comes with a positive report several days into the illness,” she informed.

How does testing help?

Aas per Dr Gilada, while an RT-PCR test for Covid-19 “also cannot definitely differentiate Omicron from the other variants”, the strain doesn’t change any management protocols. “Although an S gene drop-out on RT-PCR may signal the possibility of Omicron, only genomic testing can ascertain the strain. At an individual level, the strain of Covid doesn’t change any management protocols. Knowing the strain is crucial for public health planning though,” she said.

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