These observations by University of Washington Physicians are a good summary of how to respond to possible infection.
What are the most common symptoms of COVID-19?
Experts have identified three main symptoms of this disease: fever (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), a newly developed dry cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms may appear individually or together. To ensure you’re getting an accurate reading, take your temperature at least 30 minutes after eating, drinking or exercising and at least six hours after taking fever-reducing medications.
What are other COVID-19 symptoms you may feel?
Along with the classic trio of COVID-19 symptoms, you may also experience body aches, fatigue, a runny nose, a sore throat, a loss of your sense of smell or taste, headaches or gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea. These symptoms don’t always occur but, if they do, they’re easy to confuse with the symptoms of a cold, flu or seasonal allergies. The main way to tell the difference between COVID-19 and these other conditions is if your symptoms worsen or don’t improve after about a week.
What does a mild or moderate case of COVID-19 feel like?
In about 80% of known COVID-19 cases, the resulting illness is mild or moderate. This can range from feeling like you just have a bad cold to feeling like you have the flu and can’t get out of bed. Although you may feel unwell, people with a mild or moderate case usually don’t need to be hospitalized and can care for themselves at home. The typical recovery time is one to two weeks.
What does a severe case of COVID-19 feel like?
A severe case of COVID-19 means you require medical attention, either because you’re having trouble breathing or because you’ve developed a complication from the disease like heart failure, pneumonia or a life-threatening bacterial infection called sepsis. A mild or moderate case can develop into a severe one over the course of a few days or hours, and it can take up to six weeks for you to recover. If you’re older than 60, are pregnant or have an existing health condition or weakened immune system, you’re at greater risk of developing a severe illness from COVID-19 — but it can happen to anyone.
When should you go to the emergency room?
When you first start to feel sick, call your doctor for guidance and track your symptoms. You don’t need to go to the hospital unless you’re experiencing emergency warning signs. Things that are considered a medical emergency include having trouble breathing, feeling a persistent pain or pressure in your chest, becoming confused or disoriented, or having your face or lips turn blue. If you can, have someone call the hospital in advance so they can prepare for your visit.
Most primary care clinics remain open for in-person, medically necessary appointments. Most urgent-care are still operating. Please call in advance before traveling to any physician or clinic. To make receiving care easier, you can also choose to see your provider via a video-based telehealth appointment.
(Adapted from University of Washington Medicine.)