With the coronavirus pandemic at the forefront of everyone's mind, even the slightest cough or sniffle is enough to send your anxiety spiraling. Before you assume your slight headache is the dreaded COVID-19, check out 15 of the most common symptoms of the virus, and then call a medical professional if you have any of them. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss the entire list of the Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
If you suddenly develop a fever, it's a telltale sign that you may have COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list this as one of the most common symptoms of the virus. The CDC conducted an analysis of 199 coronavirus patients throughout the country. It found that 80% of the patients who were hospitalized experienced a fever as a presenting symptom.
If you coughed once or twice throughout the day, it's probably nothing to be concerned about. However, a persistent and dry cough may be a sign that you've contracted coronavirus. An international study conducted by the University of Leeds analyzed the presenting symptoms for COVID-19 patients around the world. It found that a persistent cough was the presenting symptom for 57% of these patients. "This varied across countries, with 76% of patients reporting a cough in the Netherlands compared to 18% in Korea," the study concluded.
Any virus that attacks your body and forces your immune system to ramp up is bound to exhaust you. Not only is fatigue one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19, it's also one of the symptoms known to last the longest in patients diagnosed with the virus.
The CDC studied 274 symptomatic outpatients and 71% reported feeling fatigue after catching COVID-19. In 35% of these patients, fatigue was still a problem four to eight days after their original diagnosis.
Loss of Sense of Taste or Smell
When loss of sense of taste or smell was originally introduced by the CDC as a common symptom of COVID-19, it had many people scratching their heads. But this unusual symptom is actually linked to many respiratory ailments. "It's not uncommon for patients with viral upper respiratory infections to experience a temporary — or sometimes permanent — loss of taste or smell," according to Dr. Justin Turner, MD, Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.
Dr. Turner confirms that about 80% of coronavirus patients complain of a loss of taste or smell. This symptom may be a side effect of the congestion and nasal disruptions COVID-19 causes in patients.
Shortness of Breath
If you find yourself winded after walking from the bedroom to the kitchen or while you're simply sitting, it may be a symptom of COVID-19. The virus attacks the respiratory system, which can cause patients to experience shortness of breath. This symptom generally lasts for a few days and goes away with other symptoms of the virus.
"Around one in every five people who are infected with COVID-19 develop difficulty in breathing and require hospital care," according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Smoking or underlying respiratory and cardiac conditions can contribute to the severity of shortness of breath coronavirus patients may experience.
Everyone is bound to suffer from a headache from time to time but this can also be a symptom of COVID-19. Headaches in coronavirus patients were mostly presented as "new‐onset, moderate‐severe, bilateral headache with pulsating or pressing quality in the temporoparietal, forehead or periorbital region," according to a study published in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. The study found that 11% to 34% of COVID-19 patients reported suffering from a headache while battling the virus.
While muscle aches and pains aren't as common in COVID-19 patients as fever or fatigue, they're still an annoying symptom of the virus. The WHO studied 56,000 COVID-19 cases in China and found that about 15% of the patients reported muscle aches and pains while recovering from the virus. Muscle aches may occur because your immune system is in overdrive attempting to fight off coronavirus, which can cause inflammation.
When you develop a fever, your body attempts to regulate its temperature with chills. The chills associated with a fever are referred to as "rigor." "Rigor is a sudden feeling of cold with shivering accompanied by a rise in temperature. A true rigor is unlikely to happen without a fever," according to Dr. Emily Spivak, MD from the University of Utah Health. These chills can genuinely make you feel cold but they also confirm that your body is fighting hard against the virus.
While the CDC lists a sore throat as a symptom of COVID-19, it's not usually a presenting symptom or especially common in the majority of patients. A study conducted in China on COVID-19 symptoms found 13.9% of patients reported experiencing a sore throat after contracting the virus.
"Everyone's body reacts differently to the virus, so while it's possible to have a sore throat as a symptom of COVID-19, it's more likely that you'll have other symptoms," according to Dr. Glenn Wortmann, MD from the MedStar Institute of Quality and Safety.
Some COVID-19 cases have symptoms that include eye problems, such as dry, red, or itchy eyes. Other coronavirus patients have been diagnosed with conjunctivitis, or pink eye, which may be related to the virus. About 33% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients experienced eye problems, according to a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology.
However, more studies on the relationship between these eye problems and the virus need to be conducted. "It is still uncertain exactly what percentage of patients with COVID-19 have ocular manifestations and different sources are reporting different numbers," according to Dr. Annie Nguyen, MD from the USC Roski Eye Institute.
Nausea or Loss of Appetite
Gastrointestinal problems, including nausea or loss of appetite, are also common symptoms of COVID-19 and are included on the CDC's list. A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology examined 204 COVID-19 patients and concluded that 50.5% complained of some type of gastrointestinal problem.
If the virus progressed from mild to severe, most of these patients reported that these digestive issues also became more prominent. It was also concluded that the patients who reported these gastrointestinal symptoms generally had higher liver enzyme levels or lower white blood cell counts than patients who didn't report the symptoms.
The CDC reports that "new confusion" is a concerning symptom of coronavirus. If you suddenly feel confused, you should seek emergency medical treatment right away. It may be a sign of low blood oxygen levels or other serious neurological effects.
Coronavirus may have negative impacts on the neurological system in some severe cases. A study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) examined 113 COVID-19 patients who eventually passed away from the virus. It found that 22% of these patients had a "disorder of consciousness," which may include confusion.
Diarrhea or Vomiting
Gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea or vomiting, could mean you're dealing with a stomach bug or food poisoning. But these are also symptoms of COVID-19. A study published in the Public Health Emergency COVID-19 Initiative analyzed 206 patients with mild cases.
The study found "48 presenting with a digestive symptom alone, 69 with both digestive and respiratory symptoms, and 89 with respiratory symptoms alone." Of the patients with gastrointestinal symptoms, 67 complained of diarrhea and 19.4% claimed this was the presenting symptom of the virus.
Chest Pain or Pressure
Chest pain or pressure is another potentially concerning symptom of COVID-19. The CDC warns if you feel pain or pressure in your chest, you should seek emergency medical treatment right away.
This chest pain may indicate a serious cardiac event or it may be the respiratory effects of coronavirus setting in. "In many of these COVID-19 cases when these patients are given an angiogram, there is no evidence of a major blockage in the heart's blood vessels, which would indicate a heart attack in progress," says Dr. Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S. from John Hopkins Medicine.
Skin Rashes or "COVID Toes"
One of the more strange yet increasingly common symptoms of COVID-19 is skin rashes, which may appear as discoloration or lesions. These rashes are usually reported on fingers and toes and may be itchy or painful.
Italian medical professionals wrote a letter to the editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology and claimed to "have observed a varicella-like papulovesicular exanthem as a rare but specific COVID-19–associated skin manifestation." These medical professionals believe more research needs to be conducted on these coronavirus-related skin rashes since they may be useful as a symptom for COVID-19 patients who are asymptomatic. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.