This New Symptom Could Be Your First Omicron Sign, Doctors Now Warn
It could also be a way to tell you're dealing with COVID-19 and not a seasonal cold.
The COVID-19 pandemic took another surprise turn when the Omicron variant was first discovered in November. After quickly spreading to become the dominant strain over Delta, the highly transmissible version of the virus has also stood out for its ability to cause mild breakthrough infections. However, similar to previous variants, Omicron has also shown that it's more likely to manifest differently in people than its predecessors, with some doctors warning that one symptom in particular has become a common first sign of infection with the variant. Read on to see what you should be on the lookout for if you start to feel sick.
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Nausea and vomiting could be an early symptom of the Omicron variant.
Since the earlier days of the pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed nausea or vomiting as a potential early symptom of COVID-19. However, doctors are now reporting that patients infected with the Omicron variant may be more likely to experience it as one of the first signs of the virus.
"With Delta, the upper respiratory symptoms were very severe. It was in the lung. Patients would have pneumonia, respiratory failure, and would go on a ventilator," Bill Admire, MD, Chief Medical Officer with Infirmary Health in Alabama, told local Mobile NBC affiliate WPMI. "But with Omicron, patients with gastrointestinal problems are flaring up and having more symptoms."
Research has found stomach issues to be a relatively common early symptom of the virus.
Besides the latest reports from doctors, researchers have previously studied how common stomach issues were reported as COVID symptoms. In one scholarly review published in the Journal of Microbiology, Immunology, and Infection in October 2021, researchers found that "nausea and vomiting are not uncommon symptoms for both adults and children during the COVID-19 and they can be the initial symptoms for SARS-CoV-2 infection." The review's authors speculate that the gastrointestinal issues typically reported with the virus may result from inflammation infection causes in the body, Good Housekeeping reports.
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Nausea or vomiting may also be more common in breakthrough cases caused by Omicron.
Other research has found that milder gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and loss of appetite might indicate a milder COVID case, which seems to be more common with breakthrough Omicron. Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London and head of the ZOE COVID Study App, said in a YouTube video that these two gastrointestinal symptoms appear more likely in infections among fully vaccinated and boosted individuals.
"Some of them had nausea (and therefore loss of appetite), slight temperature, sore throat, and headache," Spector said, referencing an outbreak within a group that had all gotten two or three shots.
Gastrointestinal symptoms can also be a sign you have Omicron and not a common cold.
Of course, one of the other challenges of COVID has been trying to determine if every sneeze, sniffle, or fever you notice is caused by the virus instead of simply being allergies or a common cold. But according to doctors, nausea and vomiting are not considered primary symptoms for a seasonal cold or flu. Instead, Shruti Gohil, MD, an associate medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention at the University of California Irvine Health, tells Good Housekeeping that stomach issues could be an early indicator of either food poisoning or COVID-19.
If your stomach symptoms begin to move into other commonly reported signs of the virus such as fever, chills, sore throat, headache, or runny nose, Gohil says it's more likely you've been infected with the coronavirus. "You should get tested for COVID-19 if you develop any of the 11 known COVID symptoms," Gohil says, who adds that feeling multiple symptoms simultaneously is also a major sign. "But there are many causes of nausea and vomiting, so you should talk to your doctor to see if you need other testing as well."
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