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The One COVID Symptom Everyone Gets Most

(It's not a cough.)
Sick Woman On Bed

COVID-19 has become infamous for its wide range of symptoms, affecting nearly every part of the body from head to (literally) toes. But a new study joins earlier research in suggesting that one symptom is most common: Fever.

In a study published Nov. 9 in The Journal of Emergency Medicine, scientists looked at nearly 12,000 people who were tested for COVID-19 at emergency rooms around New York City. In that group, the most common symptoms that accompanied a positive COVID test were: fever (74%), shortness of breath (68%), and cough (65%). Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

Fever Is the Most Commonly Reported COVID Symptom

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, and new loss of taste or smell.

Other research has indicated that fever is the most commonly reported COVID symptom. A recent Spanish study of more than 12,000 people hospitalized for coronavirus found that 86% had a fever, 76% had a cough and 60% had shortness of breath. And an early study of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in China found that 99% had a fever, 70% reported fatigue and 59% experienced a dry cough.

Fever is a common reaction to many viruses, as the immune system raises the body's internal temperature in an attempt to kill off the invader. Because the symptom is so commonly associated with COVID-19, schools, offices and certain businesses (such as restaurants, retail stores and event spaces) have implemented temperature checks at the door to try and mitigate spread.   

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But Symptoms Can Be Sketchy Screening Tools

But COVID-19 is a particularly tricky virus to pin down, and the absence of a fever doesn't necessarily mean you're in the clear. Some infections may be accompanied by a mild fever or none at all. About 40% of coronavirus infections may never produce symptoms, allowing people who are unaware they're ill to unwittingly transmit COVID-19 to others for several days. 

In fact, this week, a study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that fever checks and common symptom screenings are inadequate at spotting infections and preventing outbreaks: In a group of nearly 2,000 military recruits, COVID-19 spread despite a strict quarantine and regular temperature checks and symptom screenings.

And a different study found that temperature and symptom screenings at airports were only successful in finding 15 COVID-19 cases out of 675,000 passengers checked.

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How to Stay Healthy

Because COVID-19 is so contagious and can spread widely without symptoms or before symptoms arise, health officials say it's important to consistently follow a combination of preventative measures rather than relying on screenings or hallmark symptoms alone.

So do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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