Study finds early symptoms of COVID vary across age groups and genders


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( – The first symptoms of COVID materialize differently depending on your age and gender, according to a new study. Researchers from Kings College London report that the biggest differences in symptoms occur between younger age groups (16-59 years) and older groups (60-80+ years). Regardless of age differences, however, men, in general, tend to have different early symptoms than women.

The researchers used data collected by the ZOE COVID symptom study app between April and October 2020. This initiative invited “app contributors” to take a coronavirus test after experiencing symptoms related to COVID. Using this information, the researchers modeled the early signs of COVID-19 infection and then correctly detected 80% of cases using just three days of self-reported symptoms.

The machine learning model used by the study authors had the ability to take into account subjects’ personal characteristics (including age, gender, and health issues). Using this skill, the researchers observed differences in patients by age and sex with reference to the first symptoms.

Some symptoms of COVID are more common than others

In total, the study analyzed 18 distinct COVID symptoms. Generally speaking, some of the most common early symptoms seen in COVID-19 patients include persistent cough, abdominal pain, blisters on the feet, eye pain, unusual muscle pain, loss of smell or taste. and chest pain.

Interestingly, however, loss of smell was not as common in adults over the age of 60. The team called this symptom “not at all relevant” in people over 80. Older adults (60-80+) also had diarrhea much more often. Notably, fever was not a common early symptom in people of any age.

Regarding sex, men were more likely to report fatigue, shortness of breath, and chills. Women, on the other hand, were more likely to experience loss of smell, chest pain, and a persistent cough.

“Its important people know that the first symptoms are varied and may seem different to each member of a family or household. Testing guidelines could be updated to allow for earlier case management, especially in the face of new, highly transmissible variants. This could include the use of widely available lateral flow tests for people with any of these secondary symptoms, ”says Claire Steves, lead author of the study, in a university statement.

Nothing new to come with the Delta variant?

The study’s authors believe their findings should be applicable to anyone infected with COVID, even the new Delta variant.

“Currently in the UK only a few symptoms are used to recommend self-isolation and further testing. By using more symptoms and only after a few days of discomfort, using AI, we can better detect positive COVID cases. We hope that such a method will be used to encourage more people to get tested as soon as possible in order to minimize the risk of spread, ”adds the author of the first study, Dr Liane dos Santos Canas.

“As part of our study, we were able to identify that the profile of symptoms due to COVID differs from group to group. This suggests that the criteria for encouraging people to get tested should be personalized using individuals’ information such as age. Alternatively, a broader set of symptoms could be considered, so that the different manifestations of the disease in different groups are taken into account, ”concludes Dr Marc Modat, senior lecturer at King’s College London.

The study appears in the journal The Lancet digital health.


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