COVID-19 is a respiratory condition caused by a coronavirus. Some people are infected but don’t notice any symptoms. Most people will have mild symptoms and get better on their own. But about 1 in 6 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.
Researchers in China found that the most common symptoms among people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 include:
- Fever: 99%
- A dry cough: 59%
- Loss of appetite: 40%
- Body aches: 35%
- Shortness of breath: 31%
- Mucus or phlegm: 27%
Symptoms usually begin 2 to 14 days after you come into contact with the virus.
Other symptoms may include:
- Sore throat
- Chills, sometimes with shaking
- Loss of smell or taste
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Call a doctor or hospital right away if you have one or more of these COVID-19 symptoms:
- Trouble breathing
- Constant pain or pressure in your chest
- Bluish lips or face
- Sudden confusion
You need medical care as soon as possible. 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 patients.
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.
Lab tests can tell if COVID-19 is what’s causing your symptoms. But there’s no treatment if you do have the disease. Call your doctor or your local health department if you have questions.
Other COVID-19 Symptoms
COVID-19 can also cause problems including:
- Swollen eyes
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Coughing up blood
- Blood clots
- Heart problems
- Kidney damage
- Liver problems or damage
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. Common symptoms in children include:
- Fever: 56%
- Cough: 54%
- Shortness of breath: 13%
Some children and teens who are in the hospital with the disease have an inflammatory syndrome that may be linked to the new 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.
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.
What Kind of Cough Is Common?
Early studies have found that at least 60% of people with COVID-19 have a dry cough. About a third have a cough with mucus, called a “wet” or “productive” cough.
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.
- 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 immediately.
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.
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. COVID-19 can range from mild to severe, so it may be hard to diagnose. Testing could be available in your area.
|Cold vs. Flu vs. Allergies vs. 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||Can be present|
|General aches, pains||Slight||Usual, often severe||Never||Can be present|
|Fatigue, weakness||Mild||Intense, can last up to 2-3 weeks||Sometimes||Can be present|
|Extreme exhaustion||Never||Usual (starts early)||Never||Can be present|
|Stuffy/runny nose||Common||Sometimes||Common||Can be present|
|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
There are COVID-19 vaccines available and you should get one, if possible. Otherwise, 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.
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 air flow.
- 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.
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