What are the symptoms of Omicron?
For our analysis, we took the health reports from contributors reporting positive cases in the ZOE COVID Study app in December 2021 as Omicron became dominant and compared them with data from early October when Delta was the dominant variant.
We also confirmed these findings by analyzing data from a small group of contributors who had been told by the government that their positive PCR results were suspected or confirmed Omicron infections.
The top 5 symptoms in both periods were:
This analysis found no clear difference in the symptom profile of Delta and Omicron, with only 50% of people experiencing the classic three symptoms of fever, cough, or loss of sense of smell or taste.
Interestingly, we've seen loss of smell and taste become much less common. It was in the top 10 symptoms earlier in 2021, and now it's ranking at 17, with only 1 in 5 people experiencing it.
These findings line up with a small batch of data from contributors who reported that their positive PCR results were suspected or confirmed Omicron infections.
Many months ago, the ZOE COVID Study helped to identify over 20 mostly mild cold-like symptoms.
Dr. Claire Steves, scientist from the ZOE COVID Study and Reader at King's College London, talks about the symptoms of Omicron in this video:
Every report in the app builds on this data, and we will be conducting more research into the symptom profile of Omicron in the coming weeks.
If the symptoms are mild, why should I worry about Omicron?
While Omicron may feel more like a cold to many of us, it can still hospitalize and kill people or leave them suffering with long-term symptoms that disrupt their day-to-day lives.
Also, the fact that Omicron is much more infectious than Delta means it can spread quicker.
When cases are really high, large numbers of people will have to isolate at home for days, something that is already having a significant impact on the economy and public services in the U.K. and beyond.
What can I do to protect myself and others from Omicron?
It's important to know and recognize all of the symptoms of Omicron. Symptoms like sore throat, runny nose, headache, and fatigue could be COVID.
If you are experiencing any symptoms, get tested and isolate until you have your test result. This will help stop the spread.
If you live in an area experiencing high rates of infection, consider staying home and reducing social contact. Omicron is a highly transmissible variant, so being a bit more cautious when it comes to socializing is a good idea.
ZOE also runs the PREDICT program, which is the largest nutrition study in the world, and we also look at links between diet and COVID-19.
Findings from our research show exactly what actionable things you can do to strengthen your immune system — like eating a healthy, gut-friendly diet that is full of plants — and to help protect yourself against coronavirus and other harmful invaders.
In detail, our study found that people who ate a high-quality diet, rich in plant-based foods, were 10% less likely to get COVID-19 and 40% less likely to get severe COVID-19 requiring treatment in the hospital. You can take ZOE's free quiz to learn how you can change your diet for better health.
Additionally, being fully vaccinated (3 shots of the vaccine for most people) has been found to be the best way to protect people from severe disease and hospitalization, so if you have access to vaccines, now is the time to make sure you're vaccinated.
Wearing a mask in crowded places is another great way to protect others. If you're on public transport or mixing with people outside your household, wearing a mask is a small thing you can do to make a difference.