The World Health Organisation or WHO categorized the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 as a variant of concern on 26th November 2021. The Omicron variant is said to be more infectious than the Delta variant and is also likely to cause reinfection. However, compared to the Delta variant, the symptoms of Omicron infection are mild, as evidenced by patients getting infected with this strain.
The symptoms of Omicron infection and symptoms of Delta variant infection share a host of features. Despite this, when compared with patients infected with the Delta strain, fewer patients reported fever and loss of taste in the case of Omicron. Moreover, the Omicron variant has become the dominant strain in many countries since December 2021.
Apart from the two mentioned above, here are some of the other common symptoms associated with Omicron infection.
Mild or severe fatigue is not only an early symptom of Covid infection but is also one of the symptoms of being affected by the Omicron variant. Fatigue usually sets in the first after infection and can persist for 5-7 days or even up to 2 weeks. Fatigue is likely to affect 80% of the adults infected with Omicron.
In case of fatigue, the person feels extremely tired all the time. Doing small chores and even walking or getting up from the bed makes you tired. The fatigue does not subside even after waking up in the morning after a good sleep. Many people have also reported the inability to concentrate due to fatigue.
The positive part is that fatigue is not permanent and gradually wears off after some days with proper rest and diet.
Sore throat is another symptom of the Omicron variant. The soreness of the throat is usually mild and lasts for 5 days or lesser. Respiratory diseases can also cause sore throats. Thus, a sore throat is not a confirmation that you are infected with Omicron or any other variant of Coronavirus. If the symptoms of a sore throat persist for over 7 days, then it is not due to Covid.
In combination with other symptoms such as fatigue, headache, and runny nose, sore throat can be due to Omicron infection necessitating a Covid test and self-isolation.
Headache is also one of the symptoms of Omicron infection like the other strains of COVID-19. Headache is an early symptom and lasts for 3-5 days. Some people can experience attacks of headache even long after they test negative for COVID-19. However, the headache goes away eventually. Headache is more common among adult patients as compared to children.
Headache caused by Covid is characterized by pain on both sides of the head, moderate to severe in intensity, pulsing or stabbing or pressing in nature, and resistance to conventional painkillers. It must be remembered that there are multiple reasons for headaches other than Coronavirus infection. Thus, it is necessary to get tested for Covid only if the headache is accompanied by other symptoms of infection.
Like other variants, body ache is one of the Omicron symptoms. Body ache can last for 2-5 days but can persist for 7-8 days in people aged 35 and above. 1 in 3 people infected with the virus experience body ache. Body ache is not a common symptom and is usually reported by not more than 17% of Covid-affected patients; even lesser by Omicron infected individuals.
Body Ache feels like a dull ache in the muscles, hampers mobility. The person can even find it difficult to get up from bed and perform the most basic of tasks due to the pain. Experts believe that the inflammatory cells released by the body’s immune system in response to the viral invader cause body ache. However, they have not ruled out the possibility of the virus directly attacking the muscle tissues.
Covid infection is not the only reason for body aches. Flu, muscle injury, certain kinds of medicines, and inflammatory myopathies can also cause body ache. Thus, it is prudent to get tested for Covid only if other symptoms accompany body aches.
As per doctors and researchers, a runny nose is one of the most common symptoms of Omicron infection. A runny nose is a common symptom of cold and flu. Since running nose, sore throat, and fatigue can either be due to common cold/flu or Omicron infection; people are confused about what to do when such symptoms appear.
Doctors suggest treating a runny nose as a symptom of Omicron infection unless the test proves otherwise. Researchers have also found that the common cold’s runny nose and other symptoms are likely to be caused by Covid when the infection rates are high.
According to a survey, the prevalence of runny noses among people affected with Omicron is 73.1%.
Fever is the least common among the symptoms of Omicron. As per research, only around 29% of the people infected with this strain are reporting fever. This is a much lower figure than Delta and other earlier strains.
The Omicron variant can cause a low-grade fever. Thus, even if you do not have a fever and only suffer from a sore throat and running nose, it does not mean that you are free from infection, and thus getting tested is necessary.
Sneezing is another symptom of Omicron infection, the same as that of the common cold. In combination with a sore throat and running nose, sneezing can indicate Omicron infection, which can be confirmed only by testing.
Does omicron affect the lungs?
Pneumonia and dip in oxygen level were the most severe Coronavirus symptoms caused by Delta and other variants. However, studies suggest that, in the case of Omicron, it affects only the upper respiratory tract made of the nose, throat, and trachea. Since it does not cause lung damage, the symptoms are mild, and affected individuals do not require oxygen support. Tests on animals and cells cultured in labs have shown that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 might have less potential to damage lungs with a much higher replication rate in the bronchi than the lungs. The high infection rate of Omicron can be attributed to its ability to infect the upper respiratory tract only.
Thus, the symptoms of Omicron are mild and closely represent those of flu, common cold, and other infections. As such, if any of these symptoms are being exhibited by a patient, it is best to get her/him tested instead of making guesses.
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