Coronavirus Symptoms & How to protect yourself
What are the symptoms of Covid-19?
The virus infects the lower respiratory tract. Patients initially develop a fever, cough and aches, and can progress to shortness of breath and complications from pneumonia, according to case reports. Of nearly 56,000 patients in China, 87.9% had a fever, 67.7% had a dry cough, 38.1% experienced fatigue, and 18.6% had shortness of breath. Other, less common symptoms included sore throat, headache, aches, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and nasal congestion.
Some people become only mildly ill, or are infected but don’t get sick. Others are mildly ill for a few days, then rapidly develop more severe symptoms of pneumonia.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that people with severe symptoms should seek medical treatment immediately. Those severe symptoms include:
- Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- Bluish lips or face
How worried should I be?
Most people who are infected might become only mildly ill, data suggest. But “mild” can be anything from a fever, cough and aches to pneumonia. So for most people it is probably not just a few sniffles. And mild or not, you’ll have to be isolated or quarantined.
By not getting infected, you would also protect those around you, including older family members or anyone you know with heart disease or diabetes, conditions that increase risk of severe illness.
Of 44,672 cases in China, 81% had mild symptoms, 13.8% were severely ill, and 4.7% were critically ill, according to the Chinese CDC. All of those who died were in critical condition.
Public-health officials are trying to determine how many people have been infected, including those who didn’t get sick at all. They are concerned and want to contain the virus because its effects aren’t fully known. In addition, new viruses can mutate, possibly becoming more virulent as they work their way through a population.
I’m social distancing and I feel fine. Am I in the clear?
The new coronavirus is spreading in many cities, and as long as it is spreading at this rate, there is a risk of getting it. You may not show symptoms right away. People become ill between two and 14 days after infection, or in an average of about 5 days, according to most estimates.
Is taking a common, over-the-counter cold medication helpful?
Experts say this is helpful for controlling symptoms, which is the mainstay of treating the new coronavirus. But it isn’t a cure and won’t prevent you from infecting others.
I’ve heard I shouldn’t take ibuprofen. Is that true?
There have been reports that use of painkillers from a class known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, containing ingredients like ibuprofen, might worsen Covid-19 infections. Ibuprofen is known to reduce inflammation in the body that may be needed to fight an infection. But the World Health Organization says it doesn’t recommend against the use of ibuprofen. The public health agency said it isn’t aware of evidence on the topic or negative effects in patients from ibuprofen, beyond the usual side effects. It says it is consulting with physicians who are treating patients.
Is there a test?
Yes, there are diagnostic tests that you can get through a doctor or hospital, which are the only way to confirm for certain whether a patient has the new coronavirus or another infection. Hundreds of thousands of people have been tested in China and South Korea. In the U.S., testing was limited by problems with a CDC-developed test and narrow testing criteria. Now, more tests are being distributed and the CDC says doctors may decide whether a patient should be tested.
What if I have to self-isolate?
If you are told to self-isolate, you will need to stay at home and avoid contact with others for 14 days. Try not to stay in the same room with others at the same time, the U.K.’s National Health Service recommends. Stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened. Don’t share towels, utensils or dishes with others, and wash them thoroughly after use. Clean bathrooms and surfaces regularly. Wash your hands before and after contact with pets.
Don’t go out to public places; ask family members or friends to get groceries, medicines and other supplies for you. Ask delivery people to leave items outside.
Are there drugs to treat coronaviruses?
There aren’t any drugs or vaccines approved specifically for the new virus. But more than three dozen are in development or being studied. The first human testing of Moderna Inc.’s experimental vaccine against the virus has begun at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. While this first part is starting early, the estimate still is that testing of the vaccine will take a year to 18 months to complete. A few other vaccine makers are developing products targeting the virus.
Two clinical trials in China and one in the U.S. are evaluating remdesivir, an antiviral drug from Gilead Sciences Inc. that was also tested for Ebola. A malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, has gained attention as a possible treatment, but there is no scientific evidence that it works, experts say.
How do I keep from getting Covid-19?
Schools, workplaces and other public gathering places have been closed in many places, and officials are recommending—and in some cases, requiring—that people remain in their homes and away from exposure to other people while the coronavirus continues to spread.
Who is most at risk?
Adults of all ages have been infected, but the risk of severe disease and death is highest for older people and those with other health conditions such as heart disease, chronic lung disease, cancer and diabetes. Most of the 1,023 people whose deaths were included in a study by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention were age 60 or older, and/or had other illnesses. Many patients who have died were admitted to hospitals when their illness was advanced. One large study in China found a mortality rate of 14.8% in people ages 80 and older, and 8% in people ages 70 to 79, compared with a 2.3% mortality rate overall in the population studied.
Are my children at risk?
Few children have been reported with the infection, but that could change. Of the children who were infected in China, only a small proportion were severely ill, according to the WHO. While the disease is mild for teens and younger adults, some have had severe illnesses and died. Of 121 U.S. patients admitted to an intensive care unit, 12% were adults between the ages of 20 and 44, according to a study by the U.S. CDC.
What else can I do to protect myself?
The most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds each time. Wash them regularly when you are at the office, when you come home, before you eat and other times that you are touching surfaces. You can also use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth—viruses can enter your body that way. Wipe down objects and surfaces frequently with household cleaner, which will kill the virus. Maintain a distance from people who are sick. Stay about 6 feet or more away from others.