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Sure Signs You Have COVID Now, According to the CDC

The CDC’s latest list of coronavirus symptoms may save your life—or someone else’s.
woman touching her neck and feeling pain in throat while sitting in the living room at home.

Despite the arrival of the COVID vaccine, coronavirus cases and deaths are rising, likely in a neighborhood near you, and it will be many months before we have herd immunity. So how do you know you have the virus? The surest way to confirm you do is to get tested—but knowing the warning signs, the most common symptoms, is essential, too, as you decide to keep yourself away from others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says: "People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported—ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus." Read on to see if you have any of the symptoms, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus


Fever or Chills

woman covered by a blanket on the sofa with high fever and flu

A study, published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, and led by experts at the USC Michelson Center's Convergent Science Institute in Cancer, found that a fever is most often the first sign of coronavirus. Makes sense: It is a primary way your body fights off disease. The CDC "considers a person to have a fever when he or she has a measured temperature of 100.4° F (38° C) or greater, or feels warm to the touch, or gives a history of feeling feverish."



Ill woman coughing at bed.

You will likely experience this after a fever. What does a COVID-19 cough feel like and sound like? "Considering that COVID-19 irritates lung tissue, the cough is dry and persistent. It is accompanied with shortness of breath and muscle pain," reports ScienceAlert. "As disease progresses, the lung tissue is filled with fluid and you may feel even more short of breath as your body struggles to get enough oxygen."


Shortness of Breath or Difficulty Breathing

Young man having asthma attack at home

Straight from the CDC, "difficulty breathing or shortness of breath means the person is

  • unable to move enough air into or out of the lungs, or can do so only with an unusually great effort
  • gasping for air
  • feeling 'short of breath,' or unable to 'catch' his/her breath
  • breathing too fast or shallowly, or using muscles of stomach, chest or neck to breathe (especially for children)."



Tired woman lying in bed can't sleep late at night with insomnia

Sudden and lasting fatigue is a big sign of COVID—and one that can last long after you've shed the virus. Of patients researched in one new study, in PLOS One, "more than half reported persistent fatigue at median of 10 weeks after initial COVID-19 symptoms." And that didn't just go for those who had a really bad case; it could go for anyone: "There was no association between COVID-19 severity (need for inpatient admission, supplemental oxygen or critical care) and fatigue following COVID-19."


Muscle or Body Aches

Asian women and stiff shoulders

"Although body aches are a common symptom of Covid-19, some patients are reporting severe joint and body pain, particularly in large muscles," reports the New York Times. "Although it's rare, Covid-19 can cause painful inflammation in the joints or lead to rhabdomyolysis, a serious and potentially life-threatening illness that can cause excruciating muscle pain in the shoulders, thighs or lower back."

RELATED: COVID Symptoms Usually Appear in This Order, Study Finds



Woman suffering from stress or a headache grimacing in pain

The CDC describes this as a "head pain of unusual severity." COVID victims have described theirs as a jackhammer.


New Loss of Taste or Smell

Woman smelling flower.

Losing these senses is often the surest sign you have COVID since they are otherwise relatively rare. Interesting fact: "Most people who think they have a taste disorder actually have a problem with smell," reports the National Institutes of Health. "When you chew food, aromas are released that activate your sense of smell by way of a special channel that connects the roof of the throat to the nose. If this channel is blocked, such as when your nose is stuffed up by a cold or flu, odors can't reach sensory cells in the nose that are stimulated by smells. As a result, you lose much of our enjoyment of flavor. Without smell, foods tend to taste bland and have little or no flavor."


Sore Throat

woman with sore throat

Both COVID-19 and the flu share the symptom of a sore throat, reports the CDC—but if you experience a sore throat, especially if it's accompanied by the other symptoms on this list, assume you have COVID until you are tested, to be safe.


Congestion or Runny Nose

Young woman feeling sick and sneezing in a tissue at home.

Is it COVID? Or just a bad cold? Fair question. "With mild COVID-19, which happens in at least 80% of people, symptoms can include congestion or a runny nose. During this outbreak, it's best to assume any symptoms could be COVID-19 and isolate yourself from others," advises WebMD. "Even mild COVID-19 can be transmitted to someone else who could develop a more severe form of the infection."


Nausea or Vomiting

Woman Suffering From Nausea

These unpleasant symptoms may indicate coronavirus. "The frequency of nausea and vomiting being reported varies widely in different areas, indicating varied susceptibility of the individual digestive system," says one study in the Elsevier Public Health Emergency Collection. "It is worth mentioning that nausea and vomiting might be the initial symptoms in COVID-19. A case report showed that a 68-year-old male was admitted to the hospital for 'paroxysmal vomiting for seven days, fever for one day.' After admission, he still had vomiting without diarrhea or other respiratory symptoms. Later on, he was diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection."



Middle aged woman suffering from abdominal pain while sitting on bed at home

"Loose, watery stools" may plague COVID sufferers—and can lead to dehydration.

RELATED: 7 Side Effects of Wearing a Face Mask


When to Seek Emergency Attention

woman Doctor in green uniform wear eyeglasses and surgical mask talking, consulting and giving advice to Elderly female patient at the hospital

Says the CDC: "This list does not include all possible symptoms. CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19." The agency also asks you to "look for emergency warning signs for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you. Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility: Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19."


How to Avoid Getting COVID-19 In the First Place

Young caucasian woman wearing surgical gloves putting face mask on, protection from spread of Coronavirus

As for yourself, follow Dr. Anthony Fauci's fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live, until we're all widely vaccinated—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene and to protect your life and the lives of others, and don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more