Covid-19 Symptoms (Coronavirus): What to Do If You Might Have It

If you’ve gotten whiplash trying to keep up with the advice on how to avoid and how to treat Covid-19, the disease caused by SARS-Cov-2 virus, we’re with you. Every week we learn a little more about what to do if you’ve lost your sense of smell or are convinced that your sore throat is something more than seasonal allergies.

If you think you, or someone you know, may have contracted Covid-19, here’s what to do. And if you have the means, also consider supporting the nonprofits that are helping to fight the pandemic.

Updated September 29: We’ve clarified the CDC’s rapidly shifting advice and added in more source attribution to the World Health Organization (WHO), Yale Health, Harvard Health, MIT Medical, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and the Mayo Clinic. As things change and as we learn more about how to fight this virus, we’ll keep this page updated.

Symptoms of Covid-19

The first thing you should do is be sure your symptoms match what we know about Covid-19. Many of these symptoms are commonly associated with seasonal colds and the regular flu. Although we’re in between flu seasons right now, that doesn’t rule out your symptoms being the common cold or influenza. There are also plenty of high-pollen days at the end of summer, so you could be having problems with allergies.

While many who are infected may exhibit few to no symptoms (especially children), here are the major symptoms of Covid-19, according to the WHO, the Mayo Clinic, and the CDC.

Nearly All Cases Involve at Least One of the Following

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath

The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published on July 16, 2020, reported that 96 percent of the 164 study participants with lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 reported experiencing at least one of those symptoms, and 45 percent experienced all three.

Other Common Symptoms

  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • New loss in taste or smell (Some report this odd symptom as one of the first indicators of the disease.)

Symptoms typically appear within 14 days after exposure, though they can appear as soon as two days after exposure.

Less-Common Symptoms

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • A rash on the skin or discoloration of the fingers or toes
  • Headache
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)

For more help, try using Apple’s Covid-19 diagnosis tool, an online questionnaire the company developed in coordination with the CDC, the White House, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Johns Hopkins Medicine also has a Coronavirus Self-Checker tool, and you can use the CDC’s, too you can use. These tools will recommend a course of action based on your circumstances. There is also an Alexa skill from New York University that can answer basic questions about Covid-19.

Important Tips for Everyone, Sick or Well

Clinical thermometer
Photograph: Getty Images