Symptoms of Coronavirus

Coronavirus / COVID-19 Symptoms

One of the tricky things about Coronavirus is that many of the symptoms of COVID-19 are the same as other common illnesses. These include coughs, colds, minor bugs and even hay fever, making it nearly impossible to distinguish if you have the virus from other common ailments without taking a test.

There is a lot of information provided by the government, Public Health England, the NHS and other medical bodies about the symptoms of Coronavirus. This along with media coverage and individual case reporting can all result in a very confusing picture. What’s more, medics and patients have reported the virus presenting itself in many different ways. Symptoms do not appear to affect sufferers uniformly or even appear in the same order. 

On top of that, the incubation period (time taken for symptoms to show) after being exposed to the virus is thought to vary from between 1 and 14 days. Most typically it’s around 5 days after exposure.



How do I know if I’ve got coronavirus?

COVID 19 Symptom: Fever

Most medical professionals agree that one of the most common initial symptoms is a temperature or fever over 37.8 degrees. A normal adult body temperature ranges from 36.5 to 37.2 degrees. If you have a fever you may switch between periods of intense shivering and sweating as your body tries to fight the infection.

COVID 19 Symptom:  Continuous Cough

The second most common symptom is a new and continuous cough. The definition of ‘continuous’ cough is more than 3 bouts of coughing in an hour or coughing a lot more than normal in a 24-hour period. Anyone who is suffering from either of these symptoms should self-isolate for 10 days or until symptoms have disappeared. It’s also true that some coughs will last many weeks and a lingering cough after completing a period of isolation is likely to be fine and does not trigger the need for prolonged isolation.

COVID 19 Symptom: Loss of sense of smell and taste

More recently a loss of sense of smell and taste have been reported. Although, and again a bit frustratingly, these are also tell-tale signs of a common cold.  In Coronavirus cases, loss of taste and smell can sometimes be the only symptoms that might signal you may be suffering from COVID-19.

Other coronavirus symptoms

Other mild symptoms include feeling much more tired than usual, muscle aches and pains, headaches, a sore throat, upset stomachs or diarrhoea and feeling dizzy or nauseous.  One way that Coronavirus differs from flu and a cold is that it’s rare to get a runny nose with COVID-19, although it is still possible. Some patients have also reported feeling a sensation of something pressing down on their chest.


Risks of coronavirus

Approximately 4 out of every 5 people will experience only mild to moderate symptoms and some have none at all.  The remaining 20% will suffer more serious symptoms and may suffer from complications. These include breathing difficulties and an inability to carry out everyday tasks.  One of the most common complications of COVID-19 is pneumonia or severe respiratory infections.

If you have received notice to shield continue to do so until advised otherwise.

What health factors put you at risk from COVID-19?

As we have learnt more about coronavirus over the last few months, different risk factors have emerged which cover both health and socioeconomic factors. Other than age and a weakened immune system, the British Heart Foundation has also outlined the following health factors that increase your risk from coronavirus virus:

  • Having heart disease
  • Having vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s’s
  • Cerebrovascular conditions (stroke) 
  • Diabetes 
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Being a smoker

While long term health conditions should be carefully managed by you and your GP, some of these risk factors you can start to tackle yourself.

If you smoke, taking the first steps to quit will not only reduce your risk from coronavirus, but also cancer, lung disease and many others. Find out more on how to quit here. If you are overweight then speak to our GPs or our resident Dietitian for nutritional guidance and support on how to lose weight safely and effectively. 

Links between low Vitamin D are also being explored with early data suggesting that low Vitamin D may increase your risk of dying from COVID-19. However, Vitamin D deficiency is likely to be a contributing factor to your risk along with other factors, such as ethnicity, socioeconomic status and pre-existing health conditions, also playing a role. 

If you’d like a better understanding of your health, or if you have any underlying risk factors, a health screen will be able to provide you with in-depth health report card and further medical advice.


What to do if you have  coronavirus symptoms

Mild symptoms

If your symptoms are mild you and anyone you live with should follow self -isolation guidelines and try and make yourself comfortable at home. You can take paracetamol to help manage any fever or aches and pains, cough medicine or throat lozenges.  You should try and keep yourself well hydrated and eat well.

Severe symptoms

If you have a fever above 37.8 degrees which has lasted longer than a week or your symptoms are getting worse you should contact NHS 111. They will advise you on the most suitable treatment.  If you are struggling to breathe this is an emergency and you or a carer should call 999 and let the call handler know you are suspected to be suffering from Coronavirus.

The only way to be 100% certain whether you have Coronavirus is to take a COVID-19 test using a nasal swab which is then analysed in a professional laboratory.  Find out more about a taking swab or PCR test here.

 PCR tests at selected clinics for anyone not showing symptoms.


Medically reviewed by: Dr Daniel Fenton, GP and Clinical Director at London Doctors Clinic

Reviewed: March 2021

Next review date: March 2022

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if I have Coronavirus?

Many of the symptoms of Coronavirus are identical to other common bugs and ailments.  The only way you will know for sure is by taking a Private PCR test and having the results analysed in a laboratory.

Which symptoms will I get first?

There is no absolute set pattern or timings for how the symptoms will present, and different symptoms may show up in people living in the same household, or no symptoms at all. However, the two most common signs are a temperature higher than thirty-eight point seven degrees and a dry cough. 

Who is more likely to get more serious symptoms?

The virus is believed to have mutated into more than one strain with one strain being more aggressive than the other and causing more severe illness. 

The amount of virus you have been exposed to or the ‘viral load’ is also thought to have an impact on how your body responds. The higher the viral load, generally the worse the symptoms will be.

Most people will have mild or even no symptoms. However, the virus may have a more severe impact on people with underlying health conditions including asthma or other breathing difficulties, heart problems, a compromised immune system and diabetes.  People aged over 70 and pregnant women are also advised to take extra precautions and rigidly follow social distancing guidelines.

How long does it take for symptoms to start showing?

Again, there is no hard and fast rule. The average time between exposure and symptoms starting to appear is 5 days but many people will not be able to pinpoint the exact time when they may have contracted the virus.  Symptoms may take up to 2 weeks to show which is why the government advises people to self-isolate and remain at home with no contact for 2 weeks if a member of their household comes down with possible signs of COVID-19. If you have been tested negative for Coronavirus you will be able to reassure other members of your household their risk of contracting the virus from you is very low.

I know someone diagnosed with Coronavirus and they have different symptoms from me. Why?

The truth is we don’t know enough about this particular manifestation of coronavirus to properly understand this. The virus has many different presentations and some infected patients have no symptoms whatsoever.

I only have mild symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Can I still go to the shops and exercise?

No. If you have either a new  continuous cough or a fever you should self -isolate at home for a minimum of ten days or until the fever has disappeared, if this is longer than seven days

I feel much better now but still have a cough. Am I still infectious?

If you have completed the required 10 days of self-isolation and have no other symptoms than a residual cough, government guidance states that you do not need to continue to isolate. You are unlikely to be infectious 2 weeks after your symptoms appeared.

On the other hand, if you have a high temperature (over 37.8 degrees) at the end of your initial period of isolation, you should extend your stay at home with no contact outside your household until the fever subsides.