We’ve all been there. COVID? You wake up with a scratchy throat or dry cough, and you wonder: “Is this COVID??” It has gotten increasingly difficult to tell if you’ve been infected with the virus just on the symptoms you experience. A new viral strain, Omicron, has added to these concerns due to its rapid transmission and infection of persons who have been vaccinated or have already had COVID. An Omicron headache is among the top five most prevalent symptoms, according to the UK Zoe COVID Study App. Aside from the coronavirus, though, headaches can be a sign of a plethora of other health issues. So how do you tell if your headache is COVID or not? There are five unmistakable symptoms that your pain can signal that you have an infection, according to doctors. To determine if you’re suffering from an Omicron headache, continue reading.

These days, if you contract COVID, you’re most likely dealing with the Omicron strain. The CDC estimates that this particular strain is responsible for more than 99 percent of all new cases in the United States. One of the most prevalent symptoms of Omicron is a headache, according to a report from the Washington State Department of Health on January 26.

As the researchers at the Zoe COVID Study explain on their website, “despite the fact that headaches are an underappreciated symptom of COVID-19, they are an early warning indication and more common than the “typical” symptoms of cough, fever and loss of smell. While these symptoms are becoming less common with Omicron, headaches are becoming increasingly common. Zoe Covid Study App’s chief scientist Tim Spector stated that “you shouldn’t be waiting for the three traditional symptoms,” according to a press release.

Since the Omicron form of COVID was introduced, it has been linked to headaches. Even while head discomfort isn’t always an indication that you’re suffering from a coronavirus infection, researchers have been hunting for a means to distinguish the two. In the Zoe COVID Study App, clinicians have identified five characteristics that are often present when someone is experiencing this symptom due to the coronavirus.

A COVID headache is characterised by three different symptoms: moderate to severe pain, occurrence across both sides of the head rather than in a single location, and pulsing, pressing, or stabbing sensations. However, there are two additional qualities to keep an eye out for. If you have Omicron and have a headache, it is likely to stay longer than three days and to be ineffective with normal medications, as well.

In light of this, it’s not unexpected that COVID has been linked to this sort of symptom. The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security’s senior scholar Amesh A. Adalja, MD, said that several respiratory viruses, including COVID, can induce headaches. “The common notion is that your body is undergoing an inflammatory reaction while it fights off the virus,” infectious disease specialist and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine professor William Schaffner, MD, tells the magazine.

Doctors, on the other hand, believe there may be another explanation for why this symptom occurs more frequently in patients with the Omicron variant. The upper respiratory system, which includes your sinuses, appears to be the primary focus of this virus, according to Thomas Russo, MD, professor and chief of infectious disease at the University of Buffalo in New York. If you’re infected with the COVID virus and have a headache, it’s “very probable” that you’ll get one from Omicron.

Be on the lookout for this Omicron symptom even if you’ve already had your vaccinations. New York University professor Maya N. Clark-Cutaia, PhD, tells the New York Times that vaccinated individuals who become infected with Omicron are more likely to report headaches, body aches, and fever than unvaccinated patients. Symptoms of Omicron are less severe in those who are completely vaccinated, which may make less severe symptoms like a headache more evident.

Unvaccinated people, on the other hand, are more prone to have flu-like symptoms when they are infected with Omicron. When this strain is present, those who have not been immunised may still have shortness of breath and a cough, according to Clark-Cutaia.