Coronavirus Symptoms: Frequently Asked Questions

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Do you know the symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus? Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., senior director of infection prevention, provides an update.

What are symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The most common symptoms in humans include:

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

Note that some of these symptoms are very common and can occur in many conditions other than COVID-19 (coronavirus disease). 

How long does it take to develop symptoms after you have been 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 the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health 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 coronavirus airborne?

There is scientific debate about whether the coronavirus may spread by an airborne route in addition to larger respiratory droplets. Infectious disease expert Lisa Maragakis explains what we know and steps to take airborne precautions.

Is it possible to have other coronavirus symptoms without the 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 coronavirus?

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

Can coronavirus 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 coronavirus 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.”

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-Checker

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Coronavirus 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.

Learn more about COVID-19 and the flu.

When should I contact a doctor about my symptoms?

If you have a medical emergency such as severe shortness of breath, call 911 and tell them about your symptoms.

Otherwise, call your doctor’s office and discuss your symptoms over the phone. Your doctor will discuss next steps, including whether you should have a COVID-19 test. For milder cases, your doctor will likely recommend that you rest at home and self-quarantine. If you become severely ill, you may need hospital care.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What you need to know from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Updated: June 26, 2020