Skip to content

Top COVID Symptoms People Notice First

It's important you know what they are—even if you've been vaccinated.

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has dominated the news over the last week, but CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky noted that 99.9% of the 90,000 new cases a day are caused by the Delta variant. Research suggests that early COVID symptoms have changed slightly and may be confusing; it's important that everyone know what they are—even if you've been vaccinated—to prevent further spread of the illness. These are the top Delta COVID symptoms people usually notice first. 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.


Delta Symptoms Affect These People Differently

young woman having a panic attack
Shutterstock / fizkes

Experts from the COVID Symptom Study say Delta COVID symptoms seem to be different from previous strains, depending on your vaccination status. These are the most commonly reported initial symptoms of COVID, if you've been vaccinated: 

  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Persistent cough

They've been likened to common cold symptoms and are usually mild.

If you haven't been vaccinated, symptoms tend to be like those of earlier strains of COVID-19, including fever, a cough that can be severe, loss of taste or smell, in addition to headache, sore throat, and runny nose.


Other Common COVID Symptoms

Sick woman laying in bed under wool blanket holding thermometer and tissue. Ill girl caught cold flu. Pills and tablets on table.

According to the CDC, the common symptoms of COVID-19 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

Yes, that's a long list. Getting a headache or stuffy nose doesn't automatically mean you have COVID-19. But if you're experiencing any symptoms that are out of the ordinary, it's a good idea to get tested for COVID as soon as possible—even if you've been fully vaccinated—and self-isolate until you know the results.

RELATED: 15 Supplements Every Woman Should Take, Say Doctors


Common Cold-Like Symptoms Now Frequently Seen

Portrait of young woman smelling a fresh and sweet nectarine

"At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the main distinguishing symptoms of COVID-19 were thought to be fever, cough and loss of smell (anosmia), often known as the 'classic three or triad'," the COVID Symptom Study scientists say. "Many of the symptoms of COVID-19 are now the same as a regular cold, especially for people who have received two doses of the vaccine, making it hard to tell the difference."

How to tell them apart? It can be tricky. The researchers say loss of smell is still a telltale COVID sign. But if you develop cold or flu symptoms, get tested to rule out COVID, and self-isolate until you receive a negative result.

RELATED: 6 Ways You're Ruining Your Heart, Say Experts


The Dangers of Delta—And a Solution

Infected patient woman with face mask lying in bed at disease treatment room, doctor wearing protective clothing take care of the sick in quarantine at hospital

Experts say the Delta COVID variant

  • is much more transmissible than previous strains of the virus
  • causes more severe disease
  • tends to make people sicker, quicker
  • is twice as likely to cause hospitalization than earlier strains of the virus.

Scientists are analyzing data on the Omicron variant to determine if it's more severe than Delta; early reports say it has genetic similarities to the common cold and may be the most contagious variant of all.

What we know now: Getting vaccinated slashes your risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19, and getting a booster shot exponentially increases the number of antibodies you have to fight COVID. The CDC now recommends that all adults get a booster shot. 

RELATED: Studies Warn of These New Marijuana Side Effects


How to Stay Safe Out There

African American man in antiviral mask gesturing thumb up during coronavirus vaccination, approving of covid-19 immunization

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. Read more about Michael