(NEXSTAR) – Omicron’s most common symptoms are causing a lot of confusion. Runny nose? Headache? Sneezing? You could have COVID, a cold or allergies.
Depending on where you live, sneezing can be an especially confusing symptom, difficult to tell if it’s pollen or infectious droplets in the air.
Since the summer of 2021, the ZOE Covid Study has found sneezing is an increasingly common coronavirus symptom. It found sneezing was the fourth most commonly reported symptom associated with omicron. The ZOE Covid Study is a joint effort created by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, King’s College London, Stanford University School of Medicine and the health app ZOE.
The other most common symptoms – runny nose, headache, fatigue, and sore throat – all make the virus hard to identify on symptoms alone. Unlike the original variant of the coronavirus, loss of taste and smell is far less common with omicron.
If you’ve started sneezing more, the Centers for Disease Control says you should seek out a COVID test and stay home and away from other people in the meantime. If you test positive, you’ll need to start the CDC’s isolation protocol.
Whether it’s COVID or not, the CDC says covering your coughs and sneezes helps curb the spread of germs to other people. You should sneeze into a tissue or your elbow to reduce the number of respiratory droplets expelled into the air, and wash your hands after blowing your nose.
The highly contagious omicron variant has spread like wildfire through the U.S. since it was first detected in the country on Dec. 1, 2021. The CDC estimates omicron now makes up more than 99% of reported COVID cases in the country. Epidemiologists say there may soon be relief for overloaded hospitals and intensive care units, as the omicron peak appears to have passed.