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I'm a Doctor and Here are Early Signs You Have COVID Now

Here are the most common symptoms of COVID-19—but bear in mind that they are not always present “by the book."
FACT CHECKED BY Checkmark Emilia Paluszek
Portrait of a female doctor.

As a doctor, I know it's not always easy to tell if you have coronavirus. Once a person has contracted COVID-19, it takes between 2 and 14 days for the symptoms to appear, with the average incubation period around 5-6 days. Some people are asymptomatic, which means they can spread the virus without experiencing any symptoms at all. Symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever and cough are very similar to other diseases including seasonal flu and common cold. Therefore, it is important to self-isolate when any of the symptoms appear and take a COVID-19 PCR test as soon as possible. According to the CDC, a person with COVID-19 can experience a wide range of symptoms but some of them are more prevalent than others. Here are the most common symptoms of COVID-19—but you need to bear in mind that they do not always present “by the book." Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

1

You May Have a Fever

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The latest study from the University of Southern California analyzed rates of symptoms incidence collected by the WHO for over 55,000 confirmed cases in order to predict the order of symptoms. The study found that patients with COVID-19 more commonly developed a fever before the onset of cough in contrast to patients with seasonal flu in which cough usually came first. 

2

You May Have a New, Continuous Cough

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Around 59% of people contracting COVID-19 experience dry, continuous cough. This means that they are coughing a lot for more than an hour, or experience 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours. If you usually have a cough because you are asthmatic or you have any other respiratory conditions your cough may be worse than usual. 

3

You May Have Shortness of Breath or Difficulty Breathing

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Shortness of breath (known clinically as dyspnea) is one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19. It can make it hard to breath deeply. You may feel that you can’t get enough air into your lungs and you are breathing through a straw. It may happen no matter if you are active or resting and usually come on suddenly or gradually. If you experience difficulty in breathing or your breath is rapid and shallow seek medical attention immediately. 

4

You May Lose Your Sense of Taste and Smell

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Early in the pandemic, it emerged that many people infected with COVID-19 suddenly lose their sense of smell and taste. Scientists from Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, have found that sustentacular cells—cells that support sensory neurons in your nose—are probably what the virus is infecting. Although researches have some understanding of the mechanisms involved in smell, they have little idea about how the coronavirus affects taste. These symptoms usually recover within weeks. 

5

You May Suffer Nausea and Vomiting

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Although the clinical manifestation of COVID-19 is predominated by respiratory symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms have been observed in a subset of patients. Some patients experienced nausea/vomiting as the first clinical symptom of COVID-19, which made it clear that not only the lungs, but the gastrointestinal tract could also be attacked by SARS-CoV-2. The receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which is highly expressed in the gastrointestinal epithelium, acts as a gateway to infection, which may lead to the development of nausea/vomiting. 

6

You May Have Diarrhea

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Diarrhea is a common symptom of COVID-19. One study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology examined 206 people with a mild COVID-19 and found that 48 patients had only digestive symptoms and another 69 patients had both digestive and respiratory symptoms. 19.4% people out of 117 people with gastric distress experienced diarrhea as their first symptom.

7

You May Have a Sore Throat and Runny Nose

Sore throat and cold were not considered as the most common symptoms of COVID-19 until the new strain variant appeared in the United Kingdom. Doctors in the UK warned that sore throat and cold should be added to the list of “mild” symptoms of coronavirus as they occur more often especially in patients with a new virus strain. Therefore, it is vital that you self-isolate and seek to obtain the test as soon as these symptoms appear as you may spread infection to others without realizing.

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

8

You May Have a Headache and Dizziness

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Countless studies have revealed dizziness as one of the main neurological manifestations of COVID-19. This is not surprising as dizziness has historically been associated with viral infections. Headache is also one of the most common neurological signs of Covid-19 and it usually presents as a whole-head, severe-pressure pain. It’s different from a migraine, which by definition is unilateral throbbing with sensitivity to light or nausea.  A COVID-19 headache is more of a whole-head pressure presentation. It can last for only a few days but for some people it can last up to months.

9

You May Have a Rash, Hives or Chicken Pox-like Lesions

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According to studies, around 17% of people with COVID-19 develop skin problems. These skin symptoms may appear in the form of red rash, widespread hives or chicken pox-like lesions. They usually appear on patient toes or feet or may resemble a skin infection at the first glance. Some of these rashes may represent superficial clotting or even bleeding to the skin. Hive-type rash can involve any part of the body and often starts with an intense itching of the palms and soles and can cause swelling of the lips and eyelids.  If you feel any of these symptoms, contact a medical professional immediately, and, 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.

Monika Stuczen, MD
Dr. Monika Stuczen is R&D and QC Laboratory Manager at Medical Wire & Equipment Ltd. Read more