This Is the "Strongest, Most Consistent" Sign You Have COVID, Study Says

This is a much better predictor of early COVID than fever or cough.

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There are few symptoms more popularly associated with COVID than cough, fever, and shortness of breath. But a new international study suggests that there is another set of symptoms that can reveal a case of coronavirus with far more accuracy: a loss of taste or smell. According to the study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, these two COVID symptoms are actually the clearest signs that you've got the virus. Read on to learn more about the study's findings, and to find out how serious your COVID symptoms are, check out If You Have One of These COVID Symptoms, the CDC Says to Call 911.

Using longitudinal and cross-sectional surveys, experts from the Harvard Medical School, University College London (UCL), King's College London, and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel looked at patient-reported data from three digital surveillance platforms in the U.S., U.K., and Israel. With a total testing pool of over 10 million respondents, 658,325 individuals tested positive for coronavirus, representing a five percent rate of positivity.

They found that anosmia and ageusia (the clinical terms for loss of smell and taste, respectively), were "omnipresent," and "a reliable COVID-19 signal, regardless of the participatory surveillance platform or testing policy." In fact, these two telltale symptoms were "consistently the strongest predictor of COVID-19 infection across all platforms over time," the researchers explained. Anosmia and ageusia were highly predictive of a positive test, highlighting the importance of educating the public on a broader range of symptoms.

Read on for more early signs of COVID, and for a rare, but serious symptom, check out This Rare Symptom Could Mean You Have a Severe COVID Case.

1
Headache

Woman with a headache while she is working
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According to a study published in JAMA Neurology, roughly eight out of 10 COVID patients experience neurological symptoms, and headaches are the most common among them.

Of course, headaches can occur for any number of reasons, meaning the amount of headaches will far outnumber the amount of positive COVID tests. To learn the five key signs that your headache is the result of COVID, as opposed to another illness, stress, or a migraine, check out This Is How to Tell If Your Headache Is COVID, Study Says.

2
Sore Throat

man has sore throat and wear face mask at home
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Similarly, a sore throat can be the result of a cold, the flu, strep—not to mention a range of other possibilities. But rather than assuming it's unrelated, you should always take a sore throat seriously as a potential early sign of COVID.

According to Physician One Urgent Care, a sore throat resulting from COVID typically presents with other symptoms, including cough, shortness of breath, congestion, or loss of taste and smell. It also tends to develop more slowly than a sore throat from strep. And for more on sussing out this symptom, check out How to Tell if Your Sore Throat Is COVID, Doctors Say.

3
Fatigue

Cropped shot of a young woman lying on her bed with her eyes closed
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If you find yourself experiencing a sudden wave of exhaustion, your fatigue could be an early sign that you've contracted coronavirus.

The World Health Organization recently determined that roughly 38 percent of COVID patients report fatigue, making it the third most commonly reported symptom of the virus. And for more on this symptom, check out If You're More Tired Than Usual, Here's How to Tell If It's COVID.

4
Fever

Sick senior man lying on sofa while his wife is holding and looking to thermometer
eggeeggjiew / iStock

Fever is perhaps the best known symptom of COVID. Often, COVID patients will present with a fever first, or it will be the only sign of illness. However, experts also warn that having a fever is not a requirement for a COVID diagnosis, and other symptoms shouldn't be discounted in the absence of an elevated temperature.

"You can be infected with the coronavirus and have a cough or other symptoms with no fever, or a very low-grade one, especially in the first few days. Keep in mind that it is also possible to have COVID-19 with minimal or even no symptoms at all," explains Lisa Lockerd Maragakis, MD, the senior director of infection prevention at Johns Hopkins. And for more about what actually constitutes a fever, check out Your "Normal" Temperature Is Not Actually 98.6 Degrees, Doctors Warn.

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