No travel history, just scratchy throat: Should you get tested for the Omicron variant?

A scratchy throat, or just a sore throat without cough/cold symptoms like a runny nose or congestion, are some of the earliest signs of the Omicron variant. As such, amid rising cases of Omicron and Covid-19 in India, many people presenting with just one of these symptoms are wondering if they should get tested for the ‘variant of concern’.

“We have found that one of the symptoms — identified in these cases — is a scratchy throat,” said Dr Sulaiman Ladhani, consulting chest physician, MD Chest and Tuberculosis, Masina Hospital, Byculla, Mumbai.

However, he was quick to add that “just having a sore throat doesn’t indicate that you are infected with Omicron”. “But, if you have been in contact with people who have travelled or if you have a sore throat with running nose fever or body ache, then you should get tested for Covid. Otherwise just having a sore throat does not indicate that you have Omicron. It could just be seasonal flu. There is no need to panic,” said Dr Ladhani.

From what we know so far, Omicron appears to spread faster than the Delta variant which has been attributed to the surge in cases across the world in the last several months, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region said in a statement.

As per a PTI report, Delhi Minister Satyendar Jain noted that people with no travel history found infected with Omicron means “it’s gradually spreading in community”.

However, Omicron is said to exhibit milder symptoms in people who have had both doses of the vaccines.

“Omicron-related infections are very mild, and include throat issues, loss of appetite, and generalised weakness. The conventional symptoms like cough, cold, breathlessness, loss of sense of smell and taste are not seen in majority of cases, as per national and international data. In this scenario, with the slightest symptoms related to the throat, or body pain, it is better to avoid unnecessary testing at least without any direct travel history, or without any possible exposure concern,” Dr Gopi Krishna Yedlapati, consultant interventional pulmonologist, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad told indianexpress.com.

When such throat ache is related to seasonal changes, intake of warm liquids, keeping yourself covered, and saltwater gargles can help soothe your throat.

To stay protected, experts urge that universal precautions of social distancing, proper usage of masks, frequent hand sanitiser use, and proper ventilation of living area and vaccination can help fight against any variant of Covid-19.

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