As the coronavirus stalks Americans—more than 320,000 dead and counting—doctors around the country are doing their best to save lives. To get a list of the most common COVID-19 symptoms, we tapped the resources of the CDC, Cedars-Sinai, Johns Hopkins, Harvard Health and USC, as well as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Read on to see what you should do if you have these symptoms—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
“This wouldn’t be a light or fleeting cough—it’s more persistent,” infectious disease specialist Rekha Murthy, MD, vice president of Medical Affairs and associate chief medical officer at Cedars-Sinai, says. “It may be a dry cough, but it’s new and deep and not like a typical allergy cough, which is usually caused by a tickle in the back of the throat.”
Fever or Chills
You might experience a temperature over 100.4 degrees—although not everyone does. “Some people who are elderly or immunosuppressed might not be able to mount a fever, which is a sign of the body trying to fight off an infection,” Murthy said.
Shortness of Breath or Difficulty Breathing
“COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, can cause lung complications such as pneumonia and, in the most severe cases, acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS. Sepsis, another possible complication of COVID-19, can also cause lasting harm to the lungs and other organs,” reports Johns Hopkins.
Muscle or Body Aches
Dr. Fauci maintains that muscle aches and pains (myalgia) is another common COVID-19 symptom, with 11-35% reporting the symptom. Recently, Ellen DeGeneres revealed she had “excruciating” back pain from COVID.
“When the virus does cause symptoms, common ones include fever, body ache, dry cough, fatigue, chills, headache, sore throat, loss of appetite, and loss of smell,” reports Harvard Health. “In some people, COVID-19 causes more severe symptoms like high fever, severe cough, and shortness of breath, which often indicates pneumonia.”
New Loss of Taste or Smell
During a discussion sponsored by Columbia University, Dr. Fauci explained that the “clinical manifestations” of the virus, aka the “presenting signs and symptoms” are “strikingly similar to what we have been calling a flu-like syndrome. They include those outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common being fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, and one other that is uncommon with other ailments. Of particular interest is the rather frequent occurrence of loss of smell and taste, which precedes the onset of respiratory symptoms,” he revealed.
“Many people with COVID-19 experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, sometimes prior to having fever and lower respiratory tract signs and symptoms,” reports the CDC.
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As far as first symptoms, “Early symptoms reported by some people include fatigue, headache, sore throat or fever. Others experience a loss of smell or taste. COVID-19 can cause symptoms that are mild at first, but then become more intense over five to seven days, with worsening of a cough and shortness of breath. For some, pneumonia develops,” says Johns Hopkins.
Fauci says you may feel a profound fatigue that lasts even after you’re “sick”—even if you were previously healthy. “Individuals who either had symptoms, stayed at home for a week or two, had, fever, aches, a little shortness of breath—or even people who’ve been in the hospital who, you know, had stays in the hospital—and come back who clear the virus from the body. So the virus is no longer there. Yet maybe 20, 25% of those people” may still feel the symptoms you’re reading about, an unbearable fatigue being the most common.
Nausea or Vomiting
“USC researchers have found what appears to be the likely order in which COVID-19 symptoms first appear: fever, cough and muscle pain, then nausea and/or vomiting, then diarrhea,” says the college.
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Congestion or Runny Nose
You may have a cold. You may have coronavirus. “Some of these symptoms are very common and can occur in many conditions other than COVID-19. If you have any of them, contact a doctor or health care provider so they can assess your risk and help you determine next steps,” advises Johns Hopkins.
What You Should Do if You Have These Symptoms
“The most important thing is to stay home and practice social distancing and to isolate yourself for as long as you have symptoms and for at least 72 hours after fever resolves and symptoms have significantly improved,” Murthy said. And of course, contact a medical professional to discuss getting a coronavirus test.
How to Survive This Pandemic
As for yourself, follow Fauci’s fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.