Are loss of taste and smell symptoms of Omicron?


A loss of taste or smell were the most common symptom of a Covid infection, but has that changed with the new variants? (Picture: Getty)

Despite the bleak headlines going into 2022 – with record numbers of infections, returns to tight restrictions and the need to draft in the army to help with hospitals – there are also glimmers of hope.

The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is the most common variant now, and some experts have suggested that infections may have already peaked.

If you’re worrying whether it’s the January blues or Covid making you feel under the weather, here’s a refresher on the symptoms for the Omicron variant and whether a lack of smell or taste is still one of the key signs you’ve got the virus.

They’re common in other variants but could they indicate an Omicron infection?

Are loss of taste and smell a symptom of Omicron?

Though one of the early identifiers of other Covid variants, a loss of taste or smell isn’t thought to be a common symptom for those with the Omicron variant.

When the variant was first identified and studied, many of the early reports indicated that most cases were milder than other variants, and that symptoms for this variant may be different.

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In Yale Medicine, Lauren Ferrante, MD, observed: ‘The reports show that patients in South Africa—many of whom were young—have had severe fatigue, but no loss of taste or smell.’

As the Omicron variant spread around the world, there was more data to support these early findings.

Many outlets reported on an Omicron outbreak at a Christmas party in Norway where it was found that of the dozens of people who experienced symptoms, just 12% reported reduced smell and only 23% reported reduced taste.

What are symptoms of the Omicron variant?

Some experts are hopeful the UK has already seen the peak for Omicron infections (Picture: Getty)

The five commonly accepted symptoms of the Omicron variant are:

  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Scratchy throat
  • Dry cough
  • Mild muscle aches

Though a loss of smell and taste may not be as prominent in this variant, the virus may still present itself with the other well-established symptoms. These, as per the NHS, include:

  • Loss or change to sense of smell and/or taste
  • A new, continuous cough
  • A high temperature
Regular testing and getting your booster jabs are an important step in managing the severity of the virus (Picture: Getty)

Though not recognised as a direct symptom, diarrhoea and nausea could also be an indicator of having the virus.

According to the ZOE Covid study website: ‘Diarrhoea caused by Covid-19 is similar to the upset tummy you might get from a regular stomach bug, such as rotavirus or norovirus. We think Covid-19 causes diarrhoea because the virus can invade cells in the gut and disrupt its normal function.’

How long do Omicron symptoms last?

Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association who first identified the variant, suggests that symptoms of Omicron should clear up after a few days.

Dr Coetzee told the Daily Mail: ‘The symptoms presenting in those with Omicron are very, very mild compared with those we see with the far more dangerous Delta variant… After about five days [the symptoms] clear up, and that’s it.’

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Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick and a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M), has more recently supported this notion, indicating that the milder variant is a ‘ray of light’ that Covid could eventually become less severe and more akin to the common cold.

Regardless of whether they’re mild, anyone showing symptoms are advised to:

  • Get a PCR test (test that is sent to a lab) to check if you have Covid-19 as soon as possible
  • Stay at home and do not have visitors (self-isolate) until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.


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