Symptoms of Coronavirus

COVID-19 is a respiratory condition caused by a coronavirus. Some people are infected but don’t notice any symptoms (doctors call that being asymptomatic). Most people will have mild symptoms and get better on their own. But some will have severe problems, such as trouble breathing. The odds of more serious symptoms are higher if you’re older or have another health condition like diabetes or heart disease.

Here’s what to look for if you think you might have COVID-19.

Common Symptoms

The most common things people who become ill with COVID-19 have include:

  • Fever or chills
  • A dry cough and shortness of breath
  • Feeling very tired
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • A loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

These symptoms can start anywhere from 2 to 14 days after you’re in contact with the virus.

Emergency Symptoms

Call a doctor or hospital right away if you have any of these issues:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Constant pain or pressure in your chest
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Sudden confusion
  • Having a hard time staying awake

If you have any of these, you need medical care as soon as possible, so call your doctor’s office or hospital before you go in. This will help them prepare to treat you and protect medical staff and other people.

Strokes have also been reported in some people who have COVID-19. Remember FAST:

  • Face. Is one side of the person’s face numb or drooping? Is their smile lopsided?
  • Arms. Is one arm weak or numb? If they try to raise both arms, does one arm sag?
  • Speech. Can they speak clearly? Ask them to repeat a sentence.
  • Time. Every minute counts when someone shows signs of a stroke. Call 911 right away.

Researchers are working on several possible treatments for COVID-19, but only the antiviral drug remdesivir (Veklury) has been approved by the FDA, and it is approved only for use in hospitalized people. The FDA has authorized health care providers to use medications that aren’t yet approved for COVID-19, such as monoclonal antibodies, in some special cases.

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Other COVID-19 Symptoms

COVID-19 can also cause problems including:

Some doctors have reported rashes tied to COVID-19, including purple or blue lesions on children’s toes and feet. Researchers are looking into these reports so they can understand the effect on people who have COVID-19. 

Symptoms in Children

Researchers say kids have many of the same COVID-19 symptoms as adults, but they tend to be milder. Some children may be asymptomatic, but they can still spread the virus.

Common symptoms in children include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Some children and teens who are in the hospital with COVID-19 have an inflammatory syndrome that may be linked to the coronavirus. Doctors call it pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (PMIS). Symptoms include a fever, a rash, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and heart problems. It’s similar to toxic shock or to Kawasaki disease, a condition in children that causes inflammation in blood vessels.

When to Get Tested for COVID-19

If you aren’t vaccinated, you should get tested if:

  • You have any symptoms of COVID-19.
  • You were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. (This includes anyone who was asymptomatic.)
  • You’ve been somewhere that makes you more likely to be exposed to the virus, like a large social gathering or a crowded indoor event.
  • You’ve been asked to get tested by your doctor, workplace, or school.

If you’re vaccinated and feel you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your doctor for guidance. There’s typically no reason for you to get tested if you’re vaccinated and have no symptoms. 

How to Check for Fever

Your regular body temperature may be higher or lower than someone else’s. It also changes throughout the day. Doctors generally consider a fever in an adult to be anything over 100.4 F on an oral thermometer and over 100.8 F on a rectal thermometer.

If you think you’ve come into contact with the virus, or if you have symptoms, isolate yourself and check your temperature every morning and evening for at least 14 days. Keep track of the readings. A fever is the most common symptom of COVID-19, but it’s sometimes below 100 F. In a child, a fever is a temperature above 100 F on an oral thermometer or 100.4 F on a rectal one.

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What Kind of Cough Is Common in People With the Coronavirus?

Most people with COVID-19 have a dry cough they can feel in their chest.

What to Do if You Think You Have Mild Symptoms

If you have milder symptoms like a fever, shortness of breath, or coughing:

  • Stay home unless you need medical care. If you do need to go in, call your doctor or hospital first for guidance.
  • Tell your doctor about your illness. If you’re at high risk of complications because of your age or other health conditions, they might have more instructions.
  • Isolate yourself. This means staying away from other people as much as possible, even members of your family. Stay in a specific “sick room,” and use a separate bathroom if you can.
  • Wear a cloth face covering if you have to be around anyone else. This includes people you live with. If a mask makes it hard for you to breathe, keep at least 6 feet from others and cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. After that happens, wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rest up, and drink plenty of fluids. Over-the-counter medicines might help you feel better.
  • Keep track of your symptoms. If they get worse, get medical help right away.

What Does Shortness of Breath Feel Like?

Dyspnea is the word doctors use for shortness of breath. It can feel like you:

  • Have tightness in your chest
  • Can’t catch your breath
  • Can’t get enough air into your lungs
  • Can’t breathe deeply
  • Are smothering, drowning, or suffocating
  • Have to work harder than usual to breathe in or out
  • Need to breathe in before you’re done breathing out

You should monitor your oxygen levels, and if they dip into the 80s, contact your doctor. If your face and/or lips get a bluish tint, call 911 right away.

Is It COVID-19, the Flu, a Cold, or Allergies?

Since they share so many symptoms, it can be hard to know which condition you have. But there are a few guidelines that can help.

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You may have COVID-19 if you have a fever and trouble breathing, along with the symptoms listed above.

If you don’t have problems breathing, it might be the flu. You should still isolate yourself just in case.

It’s probably allergies if you don’t have a fever but your eyes are itchy, you’re sneezing, and you have a runny nose.

If you don’t have a fever and your eyes aren’t itchy, it’s probably a cold.

Call your doctor if you’re concerned about any symptoms.

 

Cold vs. Flu vs. Allergies vs. COVID-19

Symptoms

Cold

Flu

Allergies

COVID-19

(can range from moderate to severe)

Fever

Rare

High (100-102 F), Can last 3-4 days

Never

Common

Headache

Rare

Intense

Uncommon

Common

General aches, pains

Slight

Usual, often severe

Never

Common

Fatigue, weakness

Mild

Intense, can last up to 2-3 weeks

Sometimes

Common

Extreme exhaustion

Never

Usual (starts early)

Never

Can be present

Stuffy/runny nose

Common

Sometimes

Common

Has been reported

Sneezing

Usual

Sometimes

Usual

Has been reported

Sore throat

Common

Common

Sometimes

Has been reported

Cough

Mild to moderate

Common, can become severe

Sometimes

Common

Shortness of breath

Rare

Rare

Rare, except for those with allergic asthma

In more serious infections

How to Protect Yourself

Several COVID-19 vaccines are available, and they’re the best way to protect yourself and those around you unless your doctor advises otherwise. Full vaccination lowers your chances of getting COVID-19 by 91%.

The most accessible vaccines in the U.S. are:

  • Pfizer: available for adults and children up to age 12, requires two doses, 3 weeks apart
  • Moderna: available for ages 16 and up, requires two doses a month apart
  • Johnson & Johnson: available for ages 18 and up, requires one dose

Talk with your doctor before getting the vaccine if you have immune system issues.

Until you’re vaccinated, be sure to take these steps to prevent COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds each time, with soap and water.
  • Use an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if you don't have soap and water handy.
  • Limit your contact with other people. Stay at least 6 feet away from others if you have to go out.
  • Wear a cloth face mask in public places.
  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless you’ve just washed your hands.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that you touch a lot.

 

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Caring for Someone Who Has COVID-19 Symptoms

If you’re taking care of someone who’s sick, follow these steps to protect yourself:

  • Limit your contact as much as you can. Stay in separate rooms. If you have to be in the same room, use a fan or an open window to improve airflow.
  • Ask the person who’s sick to wear a cloth face mask when you’re around each other. You should wear one, too.
  • Don’t share items like electronics, bedding, or dishes.
  • Use gloves when handling the other person’s dishes, laundry, or trash. When you’re done, throw away the gloves and wash your hands.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect common surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, faucets, and countertops.
  • Take care of yourself. Get enough rest and nutrition. Watch for COVID-19 symptoms.

 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on July 02, 2021

Sources

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