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Warning Signs Someone You Know Caught COVID

People infected with the Omicron variant don't lose taste and smell, says Dr. Coetzee. 

Right before Christmas, COVID positivity rates are increasing exponentially in some cities. Social media is rumbling with anecdotes about people who've tested positive in recent days, and long lines are again forming outside rapid testing sites and urgent care centers. The Omicron variant seems to be taking hold nationwide. But what's the latest on symptoms? How might you know if someone close to you has recently come down with COVID? 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.


The Latest on Omicron Symptoms

Sick woman lying in bed with high fever.

The South African doctor who first warned the world about Omicron said on Dec. 7 that its symptoms are "totally different" from the Delta variant. People infected with the Omicron variant don't lose taste and smell or need to be treated with oxygen, said Dr. Angelique Coetzee

Most cases in vaccinated people are mild, she added. "It's very much like a cold or flu type of symptoms," she said, adding that patients are reporting headaches, body aches, and sore throat. "They don't have a severe cough and they don't have a running or blocked nose as you would see with an upper respiratory tract infection." 

Other symptoms reportedly associated with Omicron include fatigue, night sweats, scratchy throat and dry cough.

However, for unvaccinated people, the symptoms are worse. Omicron is "a different picture in hospital admissions especially in unvaccinated people," said Coetzee this week. "On a hospital level… between 88% to 90% (of people) are unvaccinated."


Delta Symptoms Were Also Different

Woman experiencing first Covid-19 symptoms throat pain breathing problems on sofa

Experts from the COVID Symptom Study found that Delta COVID symptoms are also different from earlier strains of COVID—and they also seem to vary depending on your vaccination status. These are the most commonly reported Delta symptoms, if you've been vaccinated: 

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

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.

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Other Common COVID Symptoms

Woman Feeling Sick or Sad Wrapped in Cozy Blue Blanket

According to the CDC, the most 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

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So How Do You Know If It's COVID?

Close-up of young man getting PCR test at doctor's office during coronavirus epidemic.

If you have a fever, a cough, or fatigue, how do you know if it's a cold, the flu, or COVID? You really can't, experts say. So it's important to practice an abundance of caution.

The experts' advice: If you're having any symptoms that are out of the ordinary, get tested for COVID as soon as possible—even if you've been fully vaccinated or boosted—and self-isolate until you know the results.

If you test positive for COVID, the CDC advises that you isolate for 10 days after the date any symptoms started (as long as your symptoms are improving and you've been fever-free for at least 24 hours without using any fever-reducing medications). If you test positive but don't have symptoms, you should isolate for 10 days from the date of your COVID test. 

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Young woman taking a vaccine from her doctor.

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