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.
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.