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Cold, flu or the Omicron variant? How to tell the difference, get tested

Wellness

Cold, flu or the Omicron variant? How to tell the difference, get tested

Runny noses, coughs and muscle aches have taken on new meaning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because the flu, common cold and COVID-19 share many symptoms, it can be difficult to distinguish the illnesses from each other.
“If you become ill, it’s natural to question whether you have COVID-19 out of concern for yourself and your loved ones,” says Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health. “In some cases, it may be impossible to determine which illness you have without testing.”
That’s particularly true amid the ongoing surge of infections caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant, he says. Research suggests symptoms from the Omicron variant tend to be somewhat less severe, with cough, fatigue, congestion and runny nose as the most common symptoms reported.

Graphic comparing the symptoms of COVID-19, the flu and common cold.However, public health officials caution the variant still poses a significant risk of hospitalization and severe illness, particularly among high-risk people who are unvaccinated.
Unvaccinated people are strongly encouraged to receive the vaccine as soon as possible, Dr. Harmon says, and eligible fully vaccinated people should get the booster. Receiving the booster has been shown to significantly enhance the lifesaving protection offered to fully vaccinated individuals by the vaccine.

How to get tested for COVID-19

If you need to get tested to determine if you have COVID-19, there are a variety of options available.
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, call your Tidelands Health primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, call 1-866-TIDELANDS for assistance locating one.

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Patients 12 and older who are experiencing cold, flu or COVID-19-like symptoms can also receive quick, convenient care by making an appointment at respiratory clinics in Georgetown and Murrells Inlet. For additional information, please click here.
In addition, you can also get a no-cost COVID-19 screening online via MUSC Health Virtual Care. Tidelands Health is proud to be our region’s MUSC Heath affiliate.
If you don’t have symptoms but need to be tested, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control offers free community testing throughout the region.
For a list of dates, times and locations, please click here.
In case of a medical emergency, dial 911 or go to the closest ER. Avoid visiting hospital emergency departments unless you have a medical emergency.

Limit the spread

Even if you are suffering from the cold or flu rather than COVID-19, it is still important to limit your contact with others and avoid going to work or school. Individuals with COVID-19 need to follow the isolation guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Your physician or other qualified care provider can provide individualized guidance about when it’s safe to be around others.

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