Most common COVID symptoms according to gender and age

COVID manifests differently in every individual, but researchers have found that the first signs of infection vary greatly, depending on factors like gender and age.

COVID Symptoms
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COVID Symptoms

While the NHS states the main symptoms of infection as fever, cough, and a loss of taste or smell, scientists from the ZOE Covid Symptom app suggest that the initial symptoms of the infection could be distinct in gender and age groups.

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According to their findings, men were more likely to report symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, chills, and fever during the first few stages of infection. On the other hand, women had increased chances of contracting symptoms like loss of smell, chest pain, and a persistent cough.


Experts also found disparities according to age groups, where older people were more likely to get diarrhoea upon infection. All above the age of 80 had a higher probability of getting a sore throat, chest pain, unusual muscle pain, as well as chills. But those aged between 16 to 39 tended to experience loss of smell, chest pain, shortness of breath, and abdominal pain. Interestingly, the team found that fever was not an early sign in any of the age groups.

All in all they examined 18 different symptoms that have been associated with COVID, and the most common early signs—which happen in the first three days of infection—included: loss of smell, chest pain, persistent cough, abdominal pain, blisters on feet, eye soreness, and unusual muscle pain.

Spreading the word

So far many of these symptoms have yet to be added on the official list of COVID symptomsbut Professor Tim Spector, scientific co-founder of ZOE, hopes that ‘people can spread the word.’ He said:

 ZOE continues to drive the public health message that there are more than just three symptoms of COVID.
Our data shows symptoms are more mild and comparable to that of a bad cold, with a runny nose, headache and a sore throat among the top symptoms for all groups.
It seems unlikely that the government is going to change the official list anytime soon, so we are calling on people to spread the word.
If you or anyone in your household feels ill, do a lateral flow test and if you test positive, confirm it with a PCR test. It’s simple, if you feel ill, take a test.
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