Omicron symptom: Is your scratchy throat coronavirus or a sore throat?


Even though the Omicron variant is milder than the variants that came before, just like Delta it can kill and leave one in 50 people with long-term symptoms. Part of the reason Omicron is so dangerous is the fact that the symptoms feel just like a common cold, which could include a sore throat and a runny nose. Lots of people aren’t getting tested for these symptoms, because the Government and NHS don’t list the most common Omicron symptoms experienced as official Covid symptoms. Is your scratchy throat coronavirus or a sore throat?

The ZOE Covid symptom study app has data from millions of people that suggests a sore throat IS a sign of Covid-19, even though the official UK Government guidance doesn’t say so.

At present, the “most important symptoms of COVID-19” on the Government website are a new continuous cough, a high temperature and a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia).

However, the creators of the ZOE app are calling for this to be updated to include the subtler Omicron and Delta symptoms.

Tim Spector, the lead scientist on the app said: “The messaging from the government is just not clear on this. I think most people know what cold-like symptoms are. I would probably just add to the list: ‘Have you got cold-like symptoms?’

“We need to educate people, go back to the basics, and say that if you’ve got cold-like symptoms keep away from people. You shouldn’t be waiting for the three classic symptoms.

“The UK is the odd one out. They should amend it if the majority are presenting that way.”

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According to the app’s data, if you have symptoms of a mild or bad cold, it’s highly likely that you’ve got Covid, especially if you’re in London – this includes a sore throat.

The site explains: “Even though a sore throat is a less well-known symptom of COVID-19, it’s an early sign of the disease and reasonably common in children and adults up to the age of 65.”

In fact, 11 percent of people on the app who were will with Covid-19 reported a sore throat as their ONLY symptom of Covid-19, but a sore throat is most likely to occur alongside many other symptoms of COVID-19.

The top five symptoms in Delta and Omicron are:

  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Fatigue (mild or severe)
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat

Contributor reports also identified loss of appetite and brain fog as common symptoms.

The main difference between the two types of sore throat is the length of time they last.

The site explains: “Covid-related sore throats tend to be relatively mild and last no more than five days.

“A very painful sore throat that lasts more than five days may be something else such as a bacterial infection, so don’t be afraid to contact your GP if the problem persists.”

So, how can you tell if your sore throat is just a cold?

According to the ZOE data, having a sore throat together with loss of smell (anosmia) is more likely to be COVID-19 than a regular cold.

Over the age of 16, a sore throat is associated most of the time with fatigue and headaches, and sometimes with a hoarse voice and light-headedness if you have Covid.

Across all ages, a sore throat is reasonably common alongside a persistent cough and fever, the ZOE app found.

If you have a sore throat, it could be Covid (especially if you have lost your sense of smell).

If this is the case, self-isolate and soothe your sore throat as you normally would.

The ZOE advice points out: “It’s important to remember that sore throats are common and caused by lots of respiratory illnesses such as normal colds.

“So although many people with COVID-19 experience sore throats, most people with a sore throat will not have COVID-19.”


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