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COVID Symptoms Usually Appear in This Order, Study Finds

Knowing 'means that doctors can identify sooner whether it's COVID-19.'
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

You've heard of the main signs of coronavirus—dry cough, fever and more. But did you know they usually appear in a certain order? So says 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. Read on to see the order so you don't miss the first signs, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.



woman is looking at the thermometer. She has fever

A fever is one way your body fights off disease. It's also the first sign of coronavirus. "Although a fever technically is any body temperature above the normal of 98.6 F (37 C), in practice a person is usually not considered to have a significant fever until the temperature is above 100.4 F (38 C)," reports MedicineNet. 



COVID-19 cover cough Coronavirus reducing of risk of spreading the infection covering nose and mouth when coughing.

You will likely experience this next. 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."


Muscle Pain

Thigh pain or muscle twitching or muscle cramp.

This is likely to come after the fever and the cough. "Muscle pain—often caused by muscle inflammation (myositis)—isn't an uncommon symptom for a viral infection," according to Health. "In general, coronavirus, like other viruses, can cause inflammation of the muscle tissue," Amir Barzin, DO, MS, incident commander for the Respiratory Diagnostic Center at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, told Leah Groth.


Nausea and/or Vomiting

woman patient with period pain on hospital bed room

After the first three symptoms, you may feel sick to your stomach. "The upper GI tract (i.e., nausea/vomiting) seems to be affected before the lower GI tract (i.e., diarrhea) in COVID-19, which is the opposite from MERS and SARS," the scientists wrote.



Door handle open to toilet can see toilet

This is the fifth symptom for many, say the researchers. "Diarrhea commonly occurs in people with COVID-19," reports Healthline. "One study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology examined 206 patients with a mild case of COVID-19. They found 48 people had only digestive symptoms and another 69 had both digestive and respiratory symptoms."

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Why the Order Matters to You

General Practitioner sitting by her desk in office,wearing blue uniform,protective gloves & face mask,virtual tele visit via video call

"This order is especially important to know when we have overlapping cycles of illnesses like the flu that coincide with infections of COVID-19," said scientist Peter Kuhn, who worked alongside scientist James Hicks and doctoral candidate Joseph Larsen. "Doctors can determine what steps to take to care for the patient, and they may prevent the patient's condition from worsening."

"The order of the symptoms matter, " Larsen added. "Knowing that each illness progresses differently means that doctors can identify sooner whether someone likely has COVID-19, or another illness, which can help them make better treatment decisions." As for yourself, to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss 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 about Alek