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Know the Symptoms

October 26, 2020

know the symptoms

symptoms of a covid-19 infection

by Jamal Ross

TThe symptoms of a coronavirus infection are important to recognize, but can be confused with other flu-like illness. Nonetheless, there is some useful in knowing the range of coronavirus symptoms, including those which are more common to COVID-19. The range of symptoms for a initial COVID-19 infection are broad and include: fever, cough, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of taste and smell.

Fever appears to be the most common symptom. If a fever is not present on the first day of the symptoms, it is typically present at some point during the illness. A large study in the United States reported a fever in 43% of cases. (1) A smaller study in China noted a fever in 44 – 98% of the time. (2) Although different studies showed different ranges, it is important to recognize that a fever should prompt you to be tested for COVID-19 virus.

The next most common symptoms appear to be a cough. In the aforementioned large-scale trial in the United States, a cough was seen in 50% cases. (1) A cough that does not produce mucous of phlegm is called a dry cough. A dry cough appears to be the most common type of cough. It is possible to have a cough to produces mucous, yet a productive cough appears to be less common.

Other less common symptoms include muscles aches and headaches, which are reported 36% and 34% of the time respectively. Shortness of breath is seen in 29% cases and a sore throat 20% of the time. Although the loss of taste and smell appear to be less common in this large-scale trial in the United States, being reported in less than 10% of the cases, other studies have shown the loss of taste and smell can be can be as high as 52% and 44% respectively. Abdominal pain and runny nose are also seen in less than 10% cases. (1, 3)

In all, the presence of flu-like symptoms should prompt you to be tested for the COVID-19 virus. A fever, dry cough, muscle aches and a headache does not mean you have COVID-19 virus, but that you need to isolate yourself and practice preventative measures while being tested for this virus. Importantly, smokers or those with lung and heart disease may experience cough and shortness of breath. Even those with seasonal or year-round allergies may have a cough, sore throat or a runny nose. As a result, it is also important to recognize the worsening of your baseline symptoms related to these diseases.


Stokes EK, Zambrano LD, Anderson KN, et al. Coronavirus Disease 2019 Case Surveillance – United States, January 22-May 30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020;69(24):759-765. Published 2020 Jun 19. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6924e2

Huang C, Wang Y, Li X, et al. Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China [published correction appears in Lancet. 2020 Jan 30;:]. Lancet. 2020;395(10223):497-506. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30183-5

Tong JY, Wong A, Zhu D, Fastenberg JH, Tham T. The Prevalence of Olfactory and Gustatory Dysfunction in COVID-19 Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2020 Jul;163(1):3-11. doi: 10.1177/0194599820926473. Epub 2020 May 5. PMID: 32369429

Jamal Ross

Dr. Jamal Ross is an internist and pediatrician who possesses a passion for prayer and preventative medicine. He has worked in the fields of primary care and hospital medicine.

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