Different Age Groups Show Different Symptoms With COVID-19

Fever was found to not be an early feature of disease.

A recent study conducted by investigators from King’s College London has found that early symptoms from an infection with COVID-19 differ between age groups, as well as between men and women.

Findings from the study were published in the journal Lancet Digital Health.

“As part of our study, we have been able to identify that the profile of symptoms due to COVID-19 differs from one group to another. This suggests that the criteria to encourage people to get tested should be personalized using individuals' information such as age,” Marc Modat, a senior lecturer at Kings College said. “Alternatively, a larger set of symptoms could be considered, so the different manifestations of the disease across different groups are taken into account.”

For the study, the team of investigators analyzed data from the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app between April and October of 2020. They then compared the prediction ability of the current National Health Service UK diagnostic criteria and a Hierarchical Gaussian Process model to detect early signs of COVID-19.

The machine learning model incorporated characteristics such as age, sex and health conditions.

Findings from the study showed that the most important symptoms for early detection included loss of smell, chest pain, persistent cough, abdominal pain, blisters on feet, eye soreness and unusual muscle pain.

In people over the age of 60, loss of smell had less significance than younger age groups and for those over age 80, lost complete significance.

It was also discovered that men were more likely to report shortness of breath, fatigue, chills and shivers, while women were more likely to report loss of smell, chest pain and persistent cough.

“Its important people know the earliest symptoms are wide-ranging and may look different for each member of a family or household,” Claire Steves, lead author on the study said. “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.”