Symptoms of COVID-19

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

If you have a medical emergency such as severe shortness of breath, call 911 and tell them about your symptoms. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms below or believe you need testing, call one of Singing River Health System’s Medical Clinics.

Click here to find a testing site nearest you.

Common Symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Fever or chills
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Persistent Cough
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Congestion or runny nose

When to seek Emergency Medical Attention?

Look for emergency warning signs for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

A recent study by doctors and scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, King’s College London, and Stanford University School of Medicine, working with ZOE – a health science company found a difference of symptoms between vaccinated and unvaccinated COVID-19 positive individuals.

Most Common SymptomsUnvaccinated

If you’ve not yet been vaccinated, then the symptoms are more recognizable.

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore Throat
  • Persistent Cough
  • Congestion & Runny Nose
  • Muscle or Body Aches

In the early days of COVID-19, loss of smell comes and shortness of breath are now not as common of symptoms, indicating the symptoms as recorded previously are changing with the evolving variants of the virus.

Most Common Symptoms – Fully Vaccinated

COVID-19 vaccines are effective. However, a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated will still contract the virus if they are exposed.

Large-scale clinical studies and now real-world research has found COVID-19 vaccination prevents most people from getting COVID-19, especially the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech & Moderna). While these vaccines are effective, no vaccine prevents illness 100% of the time.

Here is the current ranking of COVID symptoms after 2 vaccinations:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore Throat
  • Sneezing & Cough
  • Muscle or Body Aches
  • Congestion & Runny Nose

In COVID-19 breakthrough cases, fewer symptoms were reported over a shorter period of time by those who were fully vaccinated, suggesting that they were falling less seriously ill and getting better more quickly. Vaccinated people who then tested positive for COVID-19 were more likely to report sneezing as a symptom compared with those unvaccinated.

If you’ve been vaccinated and start sneezing a lot without an explanation, you should get a COVID test, especially if you are living or working around people who are at greater risk from the disease.

Most Common Symptoms – Only One Vaccine Dose

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion & Runny Nose
  • Sneezing & Persistent cough

After the protection from only one vaccine dose, one of the original indicators of a persistent cough has made the top 5 symptoms but still comes below sneezing and a runny nose in rankings, which were previously thought to be unrelated to infection.

Singing River Health System’s Medical Clinics can answer your questions, screen, and help with the next steps.

Whether you’re unvaccinated, fully vaccinated, or received only one dose so far or not, we all still need to be careful to follow the advice on increased handwashing, limited face touching, social space, and fresh air activities to protect your own health as well as those around you in your family, workplace, and community.

COVID-19 Symptoms FAQ

How long does it take to develop symptoms after being exposed to COVID-19?

Symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure or as long as 14 days later, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A new study led by researchers at Singing River Health System shows that the median time for symptoms to show up is about five days. That is why the CDC uses the 14-day quarantine period for people with likely exposure to the new coronavirus.

Is it possible to have other COVID-19 symptoms without fever?

It is possible to be infected with the new coronavirus and have a cough or other symptoms with no fever, or a very low-grade one, especially in the first few days. Keep in mind that it is also possible to have COVID-19 with minimal or even no symptoms at all.

What are the early symptoms of COVID-19?

Early symptoms reported by some people include fatigue, headache, sore throat or fever. Some people experience a loss of smell or taste. Symptoms can be mild at first, and in some people, become more intense over five to seven days, with cough and shortness of breath worsening if pneumonia develops.

It is important to know that the type and severity of the first symptoms can vary widely from person to person.

Can COVID-19 symptoms come and go?

Yes. During the recovery process, people with COVID-19 might experience recurring symptoms alternating with periods of feeling better. Varying degrees of fever, fatigue, and breathing problems can persist for days or even weeks.

Can you have COVID-19 without symptoms?

Yes. Symptoms of COVID-19 usually show up from two to 14 days after exposure to the new coronavirus, but some people who are infected do not develop symptoms or feel ill.

Are COVID-19 symptoms different in children than in adults?

Like adults, babies and children with COVID-19 can have fever, cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing and diarrhea. Children with COVID-19 generally have milder illness and rarely require treatment at a hospital, but in a few reported cases, very young babies have become seriously ill with pneumonia due to infection with the new coronavirus.

Does ibuprofen make COVID-19 symptoms worse?

The World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring this situation, but it says at present, it does not see a reason not to use ibuprofen. WHO states, “Based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen. We are consulting with physicians treating COVID-19 patients and are not aware of reports of any negative effects of ibuprofen, beyond the usual known side effects that limit its use in certain populations.”

COVID-19 Symptoms and Other Conditions

How are coronavirus symptoms different from allergy symptoms? What about colds and strep throat?

Allergies are common in the spring months and can cause itchy eyes, stuffy nose, and sneezing. The common cold can show up with these symptoms and others, such as a low-grade fever or cough. Strep throat is a bacterial illness with symptoms that include a sore throat and fever. COVID-19 shows up most often with fever, shortness of breath, and cough.

How do I know if it’s COVID-19 or the flu?

It is not always easy to tell these two diseases apart without a test. Your doctor may recommend a test for the flu if you have symptoms. As of April, flu transmission has tapered off in most areas of the United States.

Source: Coronavirus Symptoms: Frequently Asked Questions by Johns Hopkins