The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world in unimaginable ways. Caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 can affect people differently. Understanding the range of possible symptoms is crucial for getting tested and treated promptly. This article outlines the common, less common, and emergency warning signs of COVID-19.
Some symptoms of COVID-19 are now considered hallmarks of the illness:
One of the most well-known symptoms of COVID-19 is fever. Early data from China showed that around 88% of patients had a frenzy when admitted to the hospital. However, more recent studies have shown fever may be less common, especially among mild cases.
A fever is usually classified as a temperature above 100.4°F (38°C). However, it’s important to remember that not everyone with COVID-19 will get a fever.
A dry cough is another classic symptom of COVID-19. It’s estimated that around 68% of people have a cough when admitted to the hospital. The cough is usually new and persistent, meaning it lasts for weeks in some people. It’s often described as dry and unproductive.
Fatigue related to COVID-19 can be intense. Rest does not relieve This debilitating tiredness and can last several weeks. Fatigue can often occur alongside other common symptoms like fever and cough.
Around 38% of hospitalized patients experience significant exhaustion and lethargy. Fatigue appears to be more prominent in the early stages of the illness.
Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath is a hallmark of moderate to severe cases of COVID-19. Known medically as dyspnea, this symptom is reported in around 19% of people sick enough to be hospitalized.
Shortness of breath can range from mild to severe. In mild cases, it may persist even after recovery from the illness. Severe shortness of breath requires prompt medical attention.
Other Possible Symptoms
Along with the typical symptoms, COVID-19 can cause many other symptoms. These tend to be more variable from person to person.
Headache is a relatively common feature of COVID-19, reported in around 14% of hospitalized patients. It is more prevalent in milder cases. The headache is typically described as throbbing and may come and go.
A sore throat can be an early sign of COVID-19 infection. Some studies suggest sore throat occurs in around 14% of patients, while others put the number closer to 40%. The throat pain is usually mild. Having a sore throat along with a stuffy nose is more indicative of the common cold than COVID-19.
Muscle and Joint Pain
Aches and pains in the muscles and joints are commonly reported with COVID-19. This symptom is usually described as mild to moderate in intensity. Joint pain often affects the knees, back, hands, and feet.
Around 15% of hospitalized patients experience muscle aches and pains. The pain tends to improve after a few days.
Chills are not as common as fever with COVID-19 but do occur. Episodes of chills may come and go. It’s estimated that around 12% of hospitalized coronavirus patients experience chills.
Loss of Taste and Smell
Loss of taste (ageusia) and smell (anosmia) appear specific to COVID-19 compared to other respiratory viruses. These symptoms generally occur early on in the illness but can persist after recovery. It’s estimated that up to 68% of people with mild to moderate COVID-19 lose their sense of smell.
Less Common Symptoms
In addition to the standard and more typical symptoms, COVID-19 can cause:
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea – up to 10%
- Conjunctivitis (red eyes) – around 1%
- Skin rashes and lesions – vary from 2-20%
- Discoloration of the fingers and toes (COVID toes) – less than 5%
These manifestations tend to be relatively mild. GI symptoms may precede respiratory symptoms in some instances.
Emergency Warning Signs
Most people with COVID-19 experience mild to moderate illness and can recover at home. However, some people develop severe symptoms that require immediate medical care. Emergency warning signs include:
Shortness of breath at rest or difficulty breathing are signs of deficient oxygen levels. Labored, rapid breathing is a sign of respiratory distress. If breathing difficulties persist for several minutes, seeking emergency care is vital.
While mild chest tightness can be usual, acute chest pain is a concerning symptom that warrants medical evaluation. Persistent pressure or pain in the chest may signify low oxygen levels or pneumonia.
Altered mental status or confusion points to possible hypoxia (low oxygen). These cognitive changes develop acutely. Sudden confusion means it’s time to call a doctor or 911.
Bluish Lips or Face
A bluish tint to the lips, face, or fingers usually means inadequate oxygen is circulating in the blood. This emergency condition requires supplemental oxygen. Cyanosis is a late finding, so prompt care is essential.
Inability to Wake Up
Not being able to wake up is extremely dangerous. This altered consciousness level may lead to a coma or death without urgent intervention. Emergency services are needed right away.
The range of COVID-19 symptoms can make it hard to distinguish from other respiratory illnesses. Typical symptoms like fever, cough, and shortness of breath are common, but not everyone will experience them. Symptoms like headache, sore throat, and fatigue can mimic cold or flu. While many cases are mild, COVID-19 can cause severe breathing issues and pneumonia. Recognizing personal symptoms early and seeking medical care for breathing difficulties can make a difference. Monitoring for signs of hypoxia is critical, as is paying attention to emergency warning symptoms. Knowing the full range of COVID-19 manifestations is essential to get diagnosed and treated promptly.
What are the 3 most common symptoms of COVID-19?
The 3 most common symptoms are fever, cough, and fatigue. Over 80% of hospitalized patients experience fever, around 70% have a cough and about 40% report fatigue.
What are the mild symptoms of coronavirus?
Milder, more variable symptoms can include headache, sore throat, muscle aches, chills, loss of taste or smell, runny nose, nausea, and diarrhea. These are manageable at home.
What symptoms require an emergency response?
Difficulty breathing, chest pain, confusion, bluish lips or face, and inability to wake up are emergency warning signs requiring immediate medical attention.
How long do COVID-19 symptoms last?
On average, mild symptoms last around 2 weeks. Cough, fatigue, and loss of taste/smell can last longer. Severe symptoms can persist for 6 weeks or more before recovery is complete.
Can asymptomatic people transmit COVID-19?
Yes, asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic carriers are responsible for up to half of COVID-19 transmission. That’s why preventing the spread requires precautions.