Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 22 October 2021
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How Even Mild Covid Can Rapidly Become Fatal
COVID-19 Symptoms: How it can become serious quickly
COVID-19 symptoms can rapidly intensify into severe, potentially life-threatening symptoms, according to experts.
Although the majority of people with COVID-19 may have mild to no symptoms, doctors warn that even those with mild symptoms should watch for worsening symptoms that may lead to severe complications.
This disease can cause mild symptoms in some people, who then recover in a few days or a week and go on to live a normal life. They may, on the other hand, become ill before or after formal diagnosis, recover somewhat, and become critically ill 7 to 10 days later, in what experts believe is due to immune dysregulation, or the cytokine storm.
The immune system’s overreaction is referred to as a cytokine storm. It is a common complication in respiratory diseases like COVID-19 and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
When the virus that causes COVID-19 infects the lungs, the immune system reacts by sending immune cells to the lungs to fight the virus. Inflammation is a result of this process.
The immune system overreacts in certain people, resulting in the release of more immune cells and hyper-inflammation. This has the potential to be fatal.
When people have it, it usually begins as a cold or is asymptomatic. Then it can progress and lead to pneumonia, which is the most common cause of illness. This normally happens on the 6th or 7th day of the illness.
Some of this is due to the virus’s direct effect on the lungs, but much of it is due to the patient’s immune reaction to the virus, which can cause respiratory distress syndrome.
There have also been reports of some COVID-19 patients experiencing “silent hypoxia”, a term referred to by doctors. This occurs when a patient’s blood oxygen saturation levels drop, but they do not feel out of breath, this is called hypoxia.
Going from mild to severe
Symptoms can occur 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
These symptoms can include:
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- loss of taste
- loss of smell
- muscle aches
- sore throat
- nausea or vomiting
There is currently no way to predict whether a person's symptoms will progress from mild to extreme, though risk factors can make this more likely.
This virus, as well as the infection it produces, appears to be highly unpredictable. The classic symptoms: fever, cough, and shortness of breath are known, but there is an increasing number of unusual manifestations. Furthermore, there is an increase in the severity of symptoms from moderate to serious illness.
Age, diabetes, high blood pressure, lung disease and immunosuppression are all common risk factors, but this disease process and serious illness can affect anyone.
Treating mild symptoms
Although there is no medication that can prevent mild symptoms from becoming severe, there are some things that people with mild symptoms can do at home to help them feel better.
Rest, hydration and keeping away from others are important factors in ensuring a quick recovery.
A main reason the virus has spread so rapidly around the world is that those with mild symptoms have not isolated appropriately.
This is complicated by the fact that COVID-19 is not like other infectious diseases like SARS or Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
One of the reasons they have not spread like COVID-19 is because the patients are sick, so they are less likely to be out in public. They are more likely to be hospitalised and isolated. They have a higher chance of dying as well.
When it comes to COVID-19, if people are feeling well, even if they are infected but not sick, they go out and interact with others. That is why there has been such a massive outbreak leading to a pandemic.
When the virus is at its most contagious, particularly in the early stages of symptom onset, caution is required.
The viral material tends to peak in the respiratory tract around day 5 after symptom onset, it then steadily declines after that. People are coughing and sneezing at the time, so they are better able to spread the virus.
Monitoring the symptoms
If a person is experiencing symptoms such as difficulty breathing, confusion, constant pain or pressure in the chest, or bluish lips or face while quarantining at home, medical attention should be sought immediately.
Doctors advise that people with COVID-19 who are in isolation be checked in on a regular basis. It's possible that their symptoms could suddenly worsen without anyone noticing.