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Most COVID Patients Felt This Symptom First, Says Study

Watch out for these signs you may have the coronavirus.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

While you might be aware of some of the main symptoms of COVID-19, being able to identify the earlier signs of the virus can literally save lives. "Signs and symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may appear two to 14 days after exposure," explains the Mayo Clinic. "This time after exposure and before having symptoms is called the incubation period." Unfortunately, during this asymptomatic period, you are fully capable of spreading the virus. Here are the first signs you should look out for, according to the hospital. Read on to find out what they are—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus


You Will Likely Get a Fever First—but Not Always

Sick woman with cold and flu.

A spike in temperature is one of the main symptoms of COVID-19. According to the study on the CDC website, 80 percent of people with the virus reported a fever. In one study, it was determined to be the most common symptom first felt. "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 Peter Kuhn, Ph.D., one of the study authors and professor of medicine, biomedical engineering, and aerospace and mechanical engineering at USC. Indeed, it is important to keep in mind that a fever can also signal a variety of other health conditions, ranging from the flu to an infection. 


You Might Have a Cough


While a cough can be indicative of many health woes—including the common winter cold or flu—if yours is dry in nature, it is likely COVID. Unlike a wet cough, the COVID cough generally presents itself without any mucus. One study published on the CDC's website estimated that at least 51% of those infected with the virus experienced a dry cough early in the infection. 


You Might Feel Tiredness

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

Fatigue, a common sign of a viral infection, is another early symptom of COVID, with some people reporting it as the only one they experience. For some it is mild, while others report it to be overwhelming, leaving them unable to perform daily tasks. 


You Might Lose Your Sense of Smell or Taste

Portrait of young woman smelling a fresh and sweet nectarine

Many of those who test positive for COVID-19 reveal that the first symptom of their infection was a loss of their sense of taste and/or smell. Unlike many of the other COVID symptoms, the loss of these senses is much more specific. So, if you notice that you are having trouble smelling or tasting, you can confidently assume it is COVID. 


What Else to Know About Early COVID Symptoms

Patients lying on hospital bed with mask, looking at lung x-ray film during doctor reading result and advice a treatment

The Mayo Clinic also points out that the severity of COVID-19 symptoms can range from very mild to severe. "Some people may have only a few symptoms, and some people may have no symptoms at all," they write. "Some people may experience worsened symptoms, such as worsened shortness of breath and pneumonia, about a week after symptoms start."

RELATED: 7 Tips You Must Follow to Avoid COVID, Say Doctors


Do Your Part in Ending the Pandemic

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

So follow the public health fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—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, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah