According to research published in Lancet Digital Health, men and women present COVID-19 symptoms differently, with men more likely to report dyspnea, fatigue, chills, and shivers, while women were more likely to report loss of smell, chest pain, and chronic cough.

Symptoms also differed based on age, such as loss of smell, which researchers say lost significance for patients over age 60.

The most important symptoms for earliest detection of COVID-19 overall included loss of smell, chest pain, persistent cough, abdominal pain, blisters on the feet, eye soreness and unusual muscle pain. However, loss of smell lost significance in people over 60 years of age and was not relevant for subjects over 80. Other early symptoms such as diarrhea were key in older age groups (60-79 and >80). Fever, while a known symptom of disease, was not an early feature of the disease in any age group.

“Its important people know the earliest symptoms are wide-ranging and may look different for each member of a family or household. Testing guidance could be updated to enable cases to be picked up earlier, especially in the face of new variants which are highly transmissible. This could include using widely available lateral flow tests for people with any of these non-core symptoms,” said lead author, Claire Steves, PhD, clinical senior lecturer at King’s College London