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 7 days if you live alone and members of the same household for 14 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.
Those in the high-risk category have been advised to “shield” for 12 weeks.
What to do if you have coronavirus 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.
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.
Medically reviewed by: Dr Daniel Fenton, GP and Clinical Director at London Doctors Clinic
Reviewed: April 2020
Next review date: April 2021