Sore Throat, Cough Now Top COVID Symptoms: UK Study

Ralph Ellis

July 15, 2022

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

A study of COVID-19 patients in the United Kingdom has found that loss of taste and smell were no longer among the most telling symptoms of the virus.

The recent survey of about 17,500 patients who were asked about their symptoms found that 58% reported a sore throat, 49% a headache, 40% a blocked nose, 40% a cough with no phlegm, and 40% a runny nose, the BBC reported.

After that, 37% reported a cough with phlegm, 35% a hoarse voice, and 32% sneezing.

Only 27% reported fatigue, 13% altered smell, 11% shortness of breath, and 10% loss of smell, the BBC said. Loss of smell was ranked 20th among reported symptoms.

During the early days of the pandemic, loss of smell and taste were among the most distinct symptoms of COVID infection.

The REACT (Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission) study was developed by Imperial College London and was done by sending randomly selected people swab tests to do at home monthly, then asking about their symptoms.

The symptoms may have changed because the coronavirus has mutated since the start of the pandemic, according to the study. The BA.4 and BA.5 variants now dominate COVID cases in the United Kingdom and many other nations.

The finding about the changes in symptoms has been reported elsewhere. A study published in May in Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery said the rates of smell and taste loss were 17% for Omicron, compared with 44% for Delta and 50% for Alpha.

But evidence points to a renewal in loss of smell among people infected with the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, NBC News reported.

Valentina Parma, PhD, a psychologist who focuses on humans' sense of smell at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, said more COVID patients are saying they've lost their sense of smell.

"What I am seeing in my corner of the world is a spike," she told NBC News. "There seems to be more requests than earlier this year but still significantly less than with Delta."

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