The omicron variant of the coronavirus is surging through the United States. It comes at a time when the flu and the common cold are also common throughout the country, raising questions about how to distinguish between each of the sicknesses.

  • Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, former Detroit health director, recently told CNN that there is an easy way to determine the difference.
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He said to think about your exposure risk — if you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19, your symptoms could be COVID-19.

  • Loss of smell and loss of taste are COVID-19-specific symptoms that often mean you’re infected with the coronavirus.
  • The omicron variant often leads to a headache.

Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, told Yahoo! News that a COVID-19 test can help you determine the difference between the common cold and COVID-19. That fits with what El-Sayed said.

  • “Once you start feeling those symptoms ... it’s worth isolating yourself and getting a couple of tests,” he said.
  • But, he said, don’t test immediately. Once you get symptoms, test one day and then test another day.

It’s not surprising some are confusing COVID-19 and the common cold right now because the omicron variant has symptoms just like the common cold. Why? Researchers published a study in early December in OSF Preprints that found the omicron variant has some genetic makeup similar to the common cold.