Coronavirus Symptoms: Frequently Asked Questions

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Do you know the symptoms of COVID-19? Knowing the warning signs can help you take the right steps if you or loved ones become sick. Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., senior director of infection prevention, provides an update on what to look out for and when to get help.

What are symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The most common symptoms are:

  • 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

Some of these symptoms are very common and can occur in many conditions other than COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS CoV-2 coronavirus. If you have any of them, contact a doctor or health care provider so they can assess your risk and help you determine next steps.
 

Emergency Warning Signs of Severe COVID-19: When to Call 911

If you or someone in your family is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 or your local emergency room right away and let the operator know that you are calling for someone who might have COVID-19:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake up or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

There are other possible symptoms of COVID-19: Call your doctor or health care center for any symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

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Our infection prevention expert provides a brief overview of what we should know about how the coronavirus spreads.

When should I contact a doctor about my symptoms?

If you feel ill, call your doctor’s office or health care center and explain your symptoms over the phone. They will discuss next steps, including whether you should have a COVID-19 test. If it turns out that you have COVID-19, mild cases can be managed at home with rest and self-isolation. If you become severely ill, you may need hospital care.

If I'm exposed to the coronavirus, how long before I develop symptoms?

Symptoms can begin between two and 14 days after you have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. A 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 following exposure to the coronavirus.

Can you have coronavirus without a fever?

Yes, you can be infected with the 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. People infected with the coronavirus who have no symptoms can still spread COVID-19 to others.

What are the first symptoms of coronavirus?

Early symptoms reported by some people include fatigue, headache, sore throat or fever. Others experience a loss of smell or taste. COVID-19 can cause symptoms that are mild at first, but then become more intense over five to seven days, with worsening cough and shortness of breath. Some people develop pneumonia with COVID-19.

The type and severity of first symptoms can vary widely from person to person, and that is why it is very important to call your doctor if you have symptoms, even mild ones.

Can COVID 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 occur, on and off, for days or even weeks.

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Can you have COVID-19 without symptoms?

Yes. Symptoms of COVID-19 usually show up from two to 14 days after exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, but some people who are infected do not develop symptoms or feel ill. This is why it is so important to wear a face mask and practice physical distancing and hand hygiene. People can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and not realize it, but still be able to transmit it to other people.

What are COVID-19 symptoms in children?

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 than adults 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 coronavirus.

Children may also be at risk for a very rare complication of the coronavirus called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. Parents should be on guard for signs of MIS-C and call their child’s doctor immediately if they appear.

Coronavirus Symptoms and Other Conditions

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

COVID-19 shares symptoms with other conditions such as allergies, the flu or strep throat. It may be very hard to tell the difference between COVID-19 and flu without a test.

If you have symptoms that might be due to the coronavirus, contact a health care provider, describe your symptoms and follow their recommendations.

Learn more about COVID-19 and the flu.

If I get the coronavirus vaccine, will I get COVID-19 symptoms?

No, the COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration cannot and will not give you COVID-19. The new coronavirus vaccines can cause side effects, since they activate your immune system, but this does not mean you are infected with the coronavirus or that you have COVID-19. As your immune system responds to the vaccine and learns to recognize and fight the coronavirus, fever, pain at the injection site and muscle aches are possible, but these are usually both mild and temporary. Learn more about the safety of the coronavirus vaccines.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What you need to know from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Updated: February 24, 2021