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This is the Normally the First Sign You Have COVID

Knowing the first symptoms can help you get help with—and stop spreading—coronavirus.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

With the equivalent of six to eight jumbo jets of Americans falling out of the sky each day—as one morning news host so memorably, and gruesomely, put it yesterday—coronavirus is harming people you know. Will you be next? It's more important than ever to know the signs that you may be infected—the first sign, in particular. "The order of the symptoms matter," says Joseph Larsen, USC Dornsife doctoral candidate and lead author of a study about the order of COVID symptoms. "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 hear about the first sign(s)—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus


The First Sign is Usually a Fever

Ill woman lying in bed looking at thermometer suffering from seasonal flu and infectious disease

If you have a temperature of over 100.4, you may have COVID. It's the most common first sign.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says COVID-19 usually includes "fever, cough, fatigue, anorexia," meaning a loss of appetite, "shortness of breath, myalgias," meaning muscle pains. Keep reading to see what symptoms usually come next. 


You Might Then Get a Cough and Feel Muscle Pain

Sick man holding his chest in pain while coughing in the living room.

Yes, as Fauci said, a cough—usually dry—and muscle pain are common symptoms, and according to the study, often follow a fever. "One thing they don't tell you is you get, somehow, excruciating back pain," said talk show host Ellen DeGeneres last month about her myalgia, after recovering from COVID, adding that she "didn't know that was a symptom….Back pain. Bad."


You Might Then Have Nausea or Vomiting

Sick woman coughing, experiencing hiccup.

"Nausea and vomiting are not uncommon symptoms for both adults and children during the COVID-19 and they can be the initial symptoms for SARS-CoV-2 infection," says one study. "Many reasons can probably cause nausea and vomiting, including virus infection, systemic inflammatory response, drug side effects and psychological distress."


You Might Then Have Diarrhea

Middle aged woman suffering from abdominal pain while sitting on bed at home

"COVID-19 can present a variety of symptoms, but one potentially dangerous symptom most people aren't particularly excited to talk about is diarrhea," reports Johns Hopkins. "An estimated 20% of COVID-19 patients are likely to experience diarrhea soon after contracting the disease. The CDC notes that people with compromised immune systems, like those recovering from COVID-19, are at the greatest risk of developing diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms, including vomiting and nausea."


One Sure Sign is Also a Sudden Loss of Your Sense of Taste or Smell

Man taking off face mask for smelling lemon

Yes, one day you may wake up and not be able to smell eggs cooking or taste pasta sauce. "One thing that is interesting, that has been reported consistently now is the loss of smell and taste, which actually precedes the onset of respiratory symptoms," says Dr. Fauci. For some, this problem may never go away.

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


You Might Have All or None of Those Symptoms. No Two COVID Cases are the Same.

Female and male doctors wearing masks and uniforms are visiting to check the symptoms of middle-aged female patients lying in bed.

"The thing that I've been most impressed with this of all the viruses that I've been dealing with over the last several decades is the extraordinarily wide spectrum of disease," says Dr. Fauci. Some people die. Others get Post-COVID Syndrome, a possible life sentence of fatigue, migraines and cognitive issues. Others feel nothing at all, "where you get 20 to 45% of people who are completely asymptomatic and several others can be pre-symptomatic in this spread. Then you have a range of mild illness," continues Fauci, "people who need to stay home for a few days, people who are in bed for weeks and have post viral syndromes, people who require hospitalizations and when in the hospital, oxygen intensive care, intubation ventilation, and even death." 


What to Do if You Think You Have COVID

Back view of a doctor attending to a woman patient through a video call with the laptop at home.

"If you have a fever, cough or other symptoms, you might have COVID-19. Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home. If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider," according to the CDC. 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.

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