Thanks to the highly contagious Omicron variant currently making its way through the population, the average risk of contracting COVID-19 is likely higher than it’s ever been since the beginning of the pandemic. And with cold, flu, and the original recipe Delta variant all circulating, it can be difficult to hash out what may have you feeling unwell.
Fortunately, there’s a tool for that.
Using the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) online coronavirus self-checker can be a good first step in assessing your condition.
To use the widget, you’ll simply answer a series of questions relating to your current symptoms. It works a bit like a chatbot, only the CDC isn’t trying to interest you in a new car. Instead, the CDC will assess where in the country you are (to determine whether there’s a spike in cases); your vaccination status; age; gender; any urgent symptoms like trouble breathing; possible close contact with a person who has tested positive; pre-existing conditions; and other data. The checker will then guide you on whether to seek medical attention, testing, or other best practices.
The tool is recommended for those 13 and older or children 2 to 12 who have a parent or guardian sharing answers. The CDC’s self-checker is obviously not a replacement for medical attention, but it may help provide some clarity in a season harboring a variety of respiratory viruses.
While it’s still too early for scientists to make any firm conclusions about the characteristics and severity of the Omicron variant, it does appear that its symptoms may vary slightly from earlier COVID-19 variants. Omicron patients often report a runny nose, sore throat, and nasal congestion; fever and cough, common in Delta, may be less prevalent. Loss of smell and taste, once a hallmark of coronavirus, also appear to be less prevalent in Omicron; severe respiratory illness may also be less likely, though experts warn it’s still too early to draw any firm conclusions.
If you’ve taken a COVID-19 at-home test, remember that’s it’s a good practice to report it to your local department of health to help keep an accurate count of cases in your region.