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COVID Symptoms People Need to Know Now

Be aware of the most common current symptoms of Omicron and Delta variants.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Day after day, the U.S. is breaking records for new COVID-19 cases. This is due to the highly contagious Omicron variant closely following a winter wave of the also easily transmissible Delta variant. The good news: Studies indicate that Omicron is 50 to 70 percent less likely to result in hospitalization—if you're vaccinated. The bad news: That caseload is still so high that medical systems nationwide are becoming increasingly strained. Your move: Make sure you're vaccinated and boosted. And be aware of the most common current symptoms of COVID, so you can isolate ASAP and avoid spreading the virus should you contract it. (Vaccinated and boosted people can still catch COVID and spread it to others). Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

The Most Common COVID Symptoms Now

Sick woman blowing nose on her sofa.
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Scientists with the COVID Symptom Study have been tracking symptoms associated with newly diagnosed COVID cases since early in the pandemic. These days, their data indicates that Omicron symptoms aren't significantly different than those associated with Delta.

In fact, the top five symptoms of Omicron and Delta are the same. They tend to parallel the common cold and include:

  1. Runny nose
  2. Headache
  3. Fatigue 
  4. Sneezing
  5. Sore throat

People who've contracted the Omicron variant have also frequently reported loss of appetite and brain fog, the researchers said.

2

Symptoms May Depend on Vaccination 

Close up shot of hands checking Covid-19 vaccine report card and ticking 3rd or booster dose after vaccination.
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Experts basically agree that Omicron milder symptoms than previous variants—if you're vaccinated, that is. "Every patient I've seen with Covid that's had a 3rd 'booster' dose has had mild symptoms. By mild I mean mostly sore throat. Lots of sore throat. Also some fatigue, maybe some muscle pain. No difficulty breathing. No shortness of breath. All a little uncomfortable, but fine," New York ER doctor Craig Spencer tweeted recently.

"​​And almost every single patient that I've taken care of that needed to be admitted for Covid has been unvaccinated," said Spencer. "Every one with profound shortness of breath. Every one whose oxygen dropped when they walked. Every one needing oxygen to breathe regularly."

"As an ER doctor you'd trust with your life if you rolled into my emergency room at 3am, I promise you that you'd rather face the oncoming Omicron wave vaccinated," he added.

"Personally, I have not admitted a single vaccinated patient [to the hospital] in the last three weeks," Dr. Natasha Kathuria, an emergency medicine physician in Austin, Texas, told KVUE on Wednesday.  "Every vaccinated patient I've been able to send home. That being said, there are vaccinated patients who have been admitted by my colleagues, and they do well. They get admitted for just a few days, just enough to start some steroids, stabilize your oxygen and then go home."

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3

Other Common COVID Symptoms

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The CDC has not changed its list of the most common COVID-19 symptoms. According to the agency, the most common signs of COVID include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

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4

So Are My Symptoms Omicron?

Nurse holding test tube with blood for 2019-nCoV.
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For sure, that's a long list of symptoms. So how do you tell if your cough, sore throat or muscle aches are a cold, the flu or COVID? You really can't without a COVID test, experts say. Their advice: If you're experiencing any symptoms that are out of the ordinary, get tested for COVID as soon as you can. Self-isolate until you know the results.

And what if you can't get a test? "What I would say is that you know if it's right now, January 5, and you have cold symptoms and you can't get a test, you should assume you have COVID because that's what's endemic right now in our community. And you should isolate as if you have COVID," Dr. Katie Sharff, chief of infectious disease for Kaiser Permanente Northwest, told Fox 12 Oregon this week. 

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5

How to Stay Safe Out There

Nurse with face mask sitting at home with senior woman and injecting covid 19 vaccine.
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Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more