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COVID-19: Delta Variant Symptoms

Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team

Updated on


  • The Delta variant is more contagious than Alpha and Beta.
  • Delta variant symptoms resemble those of other variants of the coronavirus, but studies suggest that they may be more severe.
  • Delta is currently not the dominant strain of the coronavirus anymore, which is why it’s listed as a de-escalated variant.

Delta variant symptoms have caused international concern as this highly transmissible strain of COVID-19 spread rapidly and caused a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. This article will provide you with an overview of the Delta variant and its possible symptoms, the diagnosis of Delta, and the possible treatment options.

The Delta variant and its symptoms explained

The coronavirus has mutated various times since the beginning of the pandemic in 2019. With the help of these genetic changes, scientists can map the different strains of the coronavirus as if it were a family tree. Different coronavirus lineages may affect the virus's transmissibility, how severe the symptoms are, or how effective treatment is. 1

Delta is one of those variants that has mutated from the original coronavirus, meaning that there’s a slight change in the genetic information it contains as opposed to the original virus. This can have many effects on the way the virus behaves. In the case of Delta, this change is noted in the spike protein, which gives the virus the ability to attach itself to the cells in the human body. Accordingly, it can take over the cells to duplicate itself and spread throughout the body. 2

The Delta variant was first identified in India in late 2020. Because of its ability to spread rapidly, it quickly became the dominant variant worldwide. Studies suggest that Delta is twice as contagious as previous variants, such as Alpha and Beta. 3

Delta symptoms may also be more severe than the ones of previous variants, resulting in a higher risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and even death. This risk is especially higher for unvaccinated people, as vaccination is highly effective against the Delta variant. Delta variant symptoms for vaccinated people are generally less severe, and they also appear to be infectious for a shorter period. 3

Once Omicron appeared, it rapidly took over from the Delta variant as the dominant strain of the coronavirus worldwide. The Delta variant is currently categorized as a de-escalated variant, as it’s only detected in deficient levels. 4

What are the symptoms of the Delta variant? 

Delta variant symptoms are mostly similar to those of previous variants of the coronavirus, although there are some slight differences. Specifically, coughing and loss of sense of taste and smell are no longer as common as with previous variants. Symptoms of the Delta variant may include but are not limited to: 5

  1. High temperature
  2. Shortness of breath
  3. Muscle and body aches 
  4. Fatigue without a apparent reason
  5. Headaches
  6. Sore throat
  7. Runny or stuffy nose
  8. Diarrhea
  9. Nausea or vomiting 
  10. A new, continuous cough

However, it’s important to remember that Delta symptoms can vary widely and that if you are experiencing symptoms, you should seek medical advice and get tested. 

How long do Delta variant symptoms last?

The duration of Delta symptoms may vary from person to person and can depend on various factors, such as age, vaccination status, and underlying health conditions. 

Overall, symptoms of the Delta variant may last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. In case your symptoms last longer than that, you should seek medical attention, as you may have long COVID. 6

How can the Delta variant be diagnosed? 

The best way of knowing whether your symptoms are due to an infection with Delta is by having a PCR test done. These tests are highly accurate and check for an infection by analyzing a swab from the back of the throat or the inside of the nose. Rapid antigen tests are also available for home use but may be less sensitive than PCR tests. 7

Your health provider can detect whether you’ve been infected with Delta or another variant by genome sequencing, which is a process that checks the genetic material of a virus for specific mutations that are unique to the Delta variant.

How to treat Delta variant symptoms

Treating Delta symptoms is similar to the treatment of other variants. Mild cases can be treated at home by resting and drinking plenty of water. You can also take cough medicine if necessary or relieve your symptoms with over-the-counter painkillers, such as: 

  • Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen 

If you’re experiencing symptoms of the Delta variant, it remains vital to avoid contact with others to stop the spread of the virus. Especially avoid contact with more vulnerable people, such as the elder and those with underlying health conditions, as they can get severely ill from an infection with Delta. 

If your symptoms gradually worsen or you have questions regarding your medication, then it's essential to seek medical advice from your caregiver.

Wrapping up

Delta symptoms are a bit different from other previous coronavirus strains, as it’s less likely that you’ll develop a severe cough or a loss of taste and smell. This is due to a mutation in the genetic material of the virus, which affects the way the virus interacts with the cells in your body. 

Overall, the main symptoms of the Delta variant are very similar to those of previous variants and can be managed at home in most cases. 


Q: Does the Delta variant have different symptoms than previous variants? 
A: Symptoms of the Delta variants are quite similar to those of previous variants. Studies suggest less chance of developing a cough or a loss of smell and taste. 

Q: How long do you show symptoms after exposure to the Delta variant? 
A: The time from exposure to the Delta variant to your symptom onset is typically 4 days, a bit faster than previous variants. 

Q: What medicine can you take for the Delta variant? 
A: You can take over-the-counter painkillers or cough medicine to relieve your Delta symptoms. Some people may also be eligible for authorized COVID-19 antiviral treatment. 

Q: How long does it take to recover from the Delta variant? 
A: Recovering from the Delta variant can take days to weeks, and depends on your overall health status, age, and whether or not you have underlying health issues. 

Q: What is the incubation period for the Delta variant? 
A: In general, the incubation period for the Delta variant is 4 days, which is longer than the incubation period for Omicron. The incubation period can vary slightly from person to person.