Here's How Omicron Symptoms Compare To Classic COVID-19 Symptoms, According To Studies

So you've come down with a case of the sniffles and you're feeling extra sluggish. While it's true that cold season is upon us — and who isn't tired at this stage of the pandemic? — you may be wondering whether it's possible you have COVID-19, especially since some reports suggest the symptoms of the Omicron virus variant are closer to the common cold.

The only way to know for sure is to get tested. But there are some Omicron symptoms to watch out for and, according to very early data, they do not appear to be the same top three symptoms presented from previous COVID-19 virus strains, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified as fever, cough and shortness of breath.

The ZOE COVID Study, a not-for-profit COVID-19 research project led by Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London, uses an app to track and analyze infected people's symptoms in the UK. It selected data from a week where Delta was dominant and compared it to the most recent data from London, England, where Omicron is prevalent.

It found that the top five symptoms reported in the ZOE app in both periods were:

  1. Runny nose
  2. Headache
  3. Fatigue (mild or severe)
  4. Sneezing
  5. Sore throat

Loss of appetite and brain fog were also commonly reported symptoms, according to the study.

"This analysis found no clear difference in the symptom profile of Delta and Omicron," ZOE staff reported. However, in both cases, ZOE found that "only 50% of people experiencing the classic three symptoms of fever, cough, or loss of sense of smell or taste."

A CDC investigation found some similar results when studying 43 confirmed cases of Omicron in the U.S. With this small sample, it found that the most commonly reported symptoms were cough, fatigue, and congestion or runny nose.

It's important to note that, of the 43 people studied, 14 were vaccinated and had received a booster dose (although five of those had received their booster less than 14 days before the onset of symptoms). Additionally, 20 were fully vaccinated, and 8 were unvaccinated, while one person's vaccination status was unknown.

According to the CDC, "Symptoms would be expected to be milder in vaccinated persons and those with previous SARS-CoV-2 infection than in unvaccinated persons," so an increase in vaccination and immunity could also be contributing to milder symptoms.

The majority of these 43 cases (67%) were also in people under 40.

That said, it's too soon to know with certainty whether Omicron is actually milder than other COVID-19 variant strains, so exercise caution. Experts estimate that the Omicron variant could be up to four times more transmissible than the Delta variant.

You can find the Quebec government's full list of COVID-19 symptoms on its Symptoms, transmission and treatment web page.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

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