Symptoms of COVID-19

COVID-19 is the disease caused by a SARS-CoV-2 infection. People who have COVID-19 can experience a range of symptoms and illness intensity from mild to severe. Or they may have no symptoms at all.

The most common symptoms include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, headache, sore throat, a loss of taste or sense of smell, a stuffy or runny nose, and gastrointestinal symptoms. In children, the most common COVID-19 symptoms are fever and cough. But children can experience any of the same symptoms as adults.

Frequent Symptoms 

Although people with COVID-19 may have many symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists 11 of the most common. Symptoms typically appear between 2 and 14 days after infection:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue 
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Headache 
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose 
  •  Nausea or vomiting
  •  Diarrhea

Fever or Chills

Fever is often one of the first symptoms to develop after a SARS-CoV-2 infection, according to research published in Frontiers in Public Health. Not everyone with COVID-19 will develop a fever or body chills, and in some cases, a fever may be low-grade. A fever is typically defined as a temperature of 100.4 degrees F or above. And chills are often a symptom of fever.

Cough

A cough is one of the most common signs of COVID-19. However, not everyone who is infected with the coronavirus will develop a cough, which can also be a sign of another respiratory illness or condition like the flu. Often, in COVID-19, a cough follows the start of a fever.

Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath is another common symptom of COVID-19. Difficulty breathing is an emergency warning sign and requires immediate medical attention.

Fatigue 

Intense fatigue is a symptom often reported by people who have tested positive for COVID-19, and it’s one that often persists after other symptoms like fever are resolved, according to research published in JAMA. 

Muscle and Body Aches 

If you have COVID-19, you may also experience muscle pain, joint pain, or all-over body aches as a result of inflammation. However, body aches can also be a sign of influenza. In symptom progression of COVID-19, often muscle or body aches begin after the start of a fever and cough.

Headache

A headache is another common symptom of COVID-19, especially in conjunction with other symptoms, such as a fever, cough, or body aches.

Loss of Taste or Smell 

A loss of taste or smell is prevalent among people who test positive for COVID-19. And the CDC reports that this symptom is not generally characteristic of the flu.

Sore Throat 

While a sore throat can be a symptom of other respiratory infections or even post-nasal drip, it is also a common symptom of COVID-19.

Congestion or Runny Nose 

A stuffy or runny nose can be a symptom of allergies, the common cold, the flu, and other conditions, but it is also a frequent complaint among individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Nausea or Vomiting

An upset stomach, including nausea or vomiting, is also a symptom of COVID-19, especially when in conjunction with other common symptoms.

Diarrhea 

Loose or runny stool can occur as a result of COVID-19. Diarrhea might start at the beginning of infection or be one of the last symptoms to manifest. However, many people with COVID-19 do not have any gastrointestinal discomfort as part of their illness.

Rare Symptoms

A few rare symptoms may also occur as a result of COVID-19.

“COVID Toes”

COVID toes, a red or purple discoloration of the toes and inflammation that may be itchy or painful, is a symptom that has cropped up in children and young adults who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Pink Eye

Pink eye, also called conjunctivitis, can also develop because of COVID-19. You may experience red, itchy, or watery eyes or blurred vision.

Delirium

In cases of severe COVID-19, extreme confusion may occur as a result of the disease’s impact on the central nervous system. If this occurs in someone you're caring for, seek medical attention.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Observational studies show people with COVID-19 are at a heightened risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), also known as a blood clot, in their lower extremities. A blood clot can result in a pulmonary embolism (PE) if it travels to the blood vessels of the lungs. Watch your legs for swelling, cramping, a change in color, or itching. And monitor yourself for trouble breathing. Seek medical attention if any of these symptoms occur.

Stroke

The heightened risk of blood coagulation or clotting as a result of COVID-19 could lead to a stroke, although this symptom is rare. People with underlying cardiovascular conditions are more at risk of a stroke if they contract COVID-19. Keep an eye out for weakness, slurred speech, or confusion. Seek medical attention if any of these symptoms occur.

Complications/Sub-Group Indications 

Complications from severe COVID-19 include the following:

Although anyone can develop COVID-19, age increases your risk for severe complications. Individuals with certain underlying medical conditions are also at an increased risk for severe illness if they become infected with SARS-CoV-2. 

People with Certain Pre-Existing Medical Conditions 

The CDC lists the following medical conditions as risk factors for developing a severe case of COVID-19 if infected:

The CDC also states medical conditions that might put people at an increased risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19 include:

When To See a Doctor or Go to the Hospital 

If you have worsening COVID-19 symptoms or symptoms that concern you, you should call your healthcare provider. The CDC lists five COVID-19 warning signs that indicate you should seek emergency medical attention by calling 911 or calling ahead to your local emergency room:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion 
  • Inability to stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face 

What This Means For You

Reading about the COVID-19 pandemic and symptoms of infection can be overwhelming. Remember, not everyone who develops COVID-19 will experience symptoms. Although some people will have severe symptoms, others will have a milder illness. Researchers are learning more about COVID-19 every day and working to find the right treatments to help with severe cases. To protect yourself and others from COVID-19, wear a mask in public and to maintain a distance of at least six feet from those who don’t live with you. 

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