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COVID Symptoms Usually Appear in This Order, Study Shows

These common signs of coronavirus tend to appear in sequence.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab
woman lying sick at home couch

COVID-19 can be a confusing disease. But one group of scientists from USC has determined that COVID symptoms generally appear in a specific order. In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, the researchers looked at more than 56,000 coronavirus cases in China. They found that four main symptoms tend to show up one right after another, repeatedly. "The order of the symptoms matter," said lead study author Joseph Larsen. "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." 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.

1

Fever

Sick young woman at home on the sofa, she is covering with a blanket, taking temperature and blowing her nose with a tissue
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The researchers found that fever tends to come first. According to the CDC, fever is one of the most common signs of COVID. Fever — defined as a body temperature above 100.4 F (38 C) — is caused by the body raising its internal temperature to fight off an infection.

2

Cough and Muscle Pain

Side view of a frowned young man suffering from pain in loin while sitting on white bedding
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A dry, persistent cough is the most common sign of coronavirus; it may cause shortness of breath. The surgeon general's website lists "unexplained, significant fatigue or aching throughout the body" as a potential symptom. COVID-19 causes inflammation throughout the body, and muscle pain has been frequently reported. 

3

Nausea or Vomiting

Sick woman coughing, experiencing hiccup.
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A recent review of studies found that one in five COVID patients have GI issues of some kind. "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.

4

Diarrhea

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According to Johns Hopkins, 20% of COVID-19 patients are likely to experience diarrhea soon after contracting the coronavirus. A study published in the journal Life Science posited that COVID-related diarrhea is likely caused by the coronavirus invading the walls of the intestine, causing inflammation.

5

How to Survive This Pandemic

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