Omicron or cold symptoms? Local physician helps identify the difference

Healthbeat

KINGSTON TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Getting sick is the last thing any of us wants especially during a raging pandemic.

Trying to figure out exactly what’s making you ill can be tricky since some diseases and conditions share the same symptoms.

There are certainly similarities among upper respiratory illnesses, but also significant differences to help determine the best course of treatment and prevent spreading what’s making you sick to others.

“I did not have a fever. I did not have chills,” said Jenny Hetro, who tested positive for COVID-19.

But the symptoms Hetro does have this week are the result of COVID-19, specifically what’s likely the omicron variant.

“So I felt like I had a little bit of a cold. I had a scratchy throat. I was a little bit stuffy and I thought ‘oh gosh, maybe it’s a sinus infection or something’,” explained Hetro.

“We’re still seeing a lot of overlapping with symptoms of COVID-19 and other types of common respiratory tract infections,” stated Alison Brodginski, MD, Director of Infectious Diseases, at Geisinger NE Region.

Infections like RSV and the flu. But the omicron variant tends to share many of the same symptoms as the common cold. Those symptoms include a runny nose or sniffles, a headache or body aches, fever and/or fatigue, coughing and/or sneezing, and a sore throat.

Dr. Brodginski says some very preliminary data suggest an omicron infection might remain limited to your upper respiratory system and not the lungs. Another omicron symptom might be night sweats.

“And these are, you know, drenching sweats that could even wake you in your sleep where you would have to actually change your clothes to that degree,” explained Dr. Brodginski.

Dr. Brodginski says Geisinger has had some omicron variant patients in the last couple of weeks exhibiting those types of symptoms.

“Again, you know, still waiting for more data and really more information to understand if these truly are something unique to omicron or is this just part of, you know, the general respiratory tract infection,” stated Dr. Brodginski.

Dr. Brodginski says a diagnosis isn’t based on symptoms alone but offers this medical advice: “If you’re feeling any of these symptoms to please stay home and get that testing completed.”

Indications to date are that omicron infections are mild for the most part but can be serious for someone with underlying health conditions.

If you’re wondering what’s the best treatment for someone who is infected with the omicron variant? It could be monoclonal antibodies, anti-virals or some other prescription medication for the most vulnerable.

Others should treat it like you would a cold and get plenty of rest and liquids and by all means, consult your doctor if you’re in doubt or conditions worsen.

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