After almost two years of the Covid pandemic, most of us are pretty familiar with symptoms of the virus by now – until the Omicron variant came around.
The new variant, which was first discovered in southern Africa, displays symptoms that are different from the 'classic' signs of coronavirus, which includes a cough, fever and a loss of smell or taste.
Experts have described the symptoms of Omicron as being "extremely mild," and similar to a common cold, but there are still worries over soaring infection rates.
As the UK hits record numbers of cases, here’s everything we need to watch out for when it comes to this new strain of coronavirus.
What are all the symptoms to look out for with Omicron?
According to the ZOE Covid symptom tracking app, there are five common signs of the Omicron variant. This includes:
One of the earliest signs of Omicron has been noted as a scratchy/dry throat. According to ZOE’s data, almost half of people who have tested positive for Covid had a sore throat.
The scratchy throat often leads to patients also developing a hoarse voice. However, the coronavirus-related sore throats tend to be relatively mild and last no more than five days in many cases.
Headaches are one of the first and most common signs of Omicron. These headaches tend to range from moderate to severely painful, with the pain reported to 'pulsing, 'pressing' or 'stabbing', across both sides of the head.
Dr Angelique Coetzee, the doctor who first raised the alarm on Omicron, headaches are one of the symptoms that can be felt more intensely by patients, especially those who are unvaccinated.
Covid headaches are likely to last more than three days and are often resistant to regular painkillers.
A runny nose has been found to be the second most common symptom of Omicron. Around 60% of those tested positive for Covid have reported a runny nose, according to ZOE.
But it can be difficult to say if a runny nose is definitely a symptom of Covid, as it can also be due to other things like a cold or allergies.
It's worth noting that the ZOE study also stresses that when Covid rates are low, a runny nose is less likely to be due to the virus.
Fatigue is another common sign of Omicron which presents early on. Covid fatigue is quite different from the normal feelings of being tired or sleepy, as you're left extremely tired or 'wiped out' even after a good night's sleep.
Many people find daily tasks like getting up the stairs or getting out of bed to be difficult due to coronavirus-related fatigue.
The ZOE study found that sneezing is actually quite a common sign of Covid among those who’ve been vaccinated. But it's worth noting that sneezing could also be a sign of a cold or an allergy.
It added that though many people with Covid might sneeze, “it’s not a definitive symptom because sneezing is so common”.
What weird and unusual symptoms are there with Omicron according to experts?
Professor Tim Spector, the scientist behind ZOE, has warned that Omicron symptoms are quite similar to a common cold, making it much harder to spot.
However, there have also been some atypical signs that are unique to the new variant.
Some of the more unusual symptoms which haven't been seen with previous variants like Delta include congestion, brain fog, night sweats, and skin rashes that resemble either hives or prickly heat rash.
Other signs are nausea, lower back pain, muscle soreness, and even sore eyes.
How dangerous is Omicron compared to other variants, according to experts?
Omicron symptoms have been consistently described as mild. However, experts are still worried because a lot remains unknown about the strain which has 32 spike mutations.
There have been concerns about the transmission rates of Omicron and the possibility of the variant to overcome vaccine immunity, though hospitalisations have not surged dramatically.
All of these factors mean that we don't know what kind of pressure the disease will put on our health system.
Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, told CNBC: "At a time when the NHS are a) massively depleted by omicron and b) massively stretched and fatigued after two thankless years on the frontline, this would be untenable."
A study from the college showed that two doses of the vaccine were not enough to provide any serious level of protection but that boosters are the safest and best way to protect against serious illness from Omicron and Delta.
It has also been found by ZOE that one in 50 people who are infected will suffer long-term issues which are likely to disrupt their day-to-day lives.
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