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what are the coronavirus symptoms

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The global pandemic of COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus, one that has never been seen until now.

Coronaviruses are a family of spiky viruses that can cause respiratory illnesses in humans, including SARS, MERS, and the common cold.

Since mild COVID-19 symptoms can look so much like the common cold, allergies, or the flu, it can be difficult — and anxiety inducing — to tell whether you have the pandemic disease or something else. (At the bottom, we'll offer some tips on telling them apart.)

Freethink is here to help. On this page, you will find the symptoms to look out for, beginning with the major ones agreed upon by health bodies like the WHO and CDC. Below those will be rarer symptoms, followed by other potential symptoms being proposed by teams of researchers.

If you have fever, cough, and shortness of breath, the WHO recommends seeking medical attention.

The more patients who are diagnosed, the more symptoms may be able to be identified and distinguished from other illnesses; we'll keep updating the article accordingly.

For most people who become infected, these symptoms will be mild or may not even show up at all.

For others, they could lead to trouble breathing, hospitalization, assisted breathing with precious ventilators, and even death. This is why it is so crucial to practice soaping up and social distancing; even if you end up coming out ok, someone else you come into contact with may not.

What Are the Coronavirus Symptoms?

The WHO and CDC have developed a list of the most common symptoms of COVID-19.

These are:

  • Cough (usually dry; no phlegm)
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath

If you have fever, cough, and shortness of breath — the COVID-19 Triple Crown — the WHO recommends seeking medical attention. Most people who do not have these symptoms do not require medical attention, and going to the doctor unnecessarily may put you at more risk of contracting COVID-19.

Severe Coronavirus Symptoms

In severe cases, COVID-19 may progress to:

  • Pneumonia
  • Rapid, labored breathing (30 or more breaths a minute)
  • Low blood oxygen (93% or less)
  • Bluish lips or face
  • New confusion or inability to arouse yourself

Needless to say, if you have difficulty breathing or any more severe symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately. In critical cases, COVID-19 can lead to respiratory failure, septic shock, multiple organ failure, and death.

Other Coronavirus Symptoms

In addition to these basic symptoms, there are some others that have been commonly reported by COVID-19 patients.

These are:

  • Aches and pains
  • Chills/shaking with chills
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

As the data are updated, researchers are looking at the cases for other coronavirus symptoms. As more are found, we will update — and possibly eliminate — them as needed.

These include:

  • Loss of sense of smell (and taste)

The more patients who are diagnosed, the more symptoms may be able to be identified and distinguished from other illnesses.

Loss of sense of smell could be a sign of a mild or almost asymptomatic case.

Known as anosmia, evidence in Italy, Germany, and South Korea points to loss of smell as a potential symptom of COVID-19, according to a statement by ENT doctors in the UK. Doctors have noticed anosmia and a loss of taste, ageusia, in cases who test positive without any other symptoms.

A study by UC San Diego Health published on April 12 provided the first empirical evidence that links these symptoms to COVID-19 cases.

Allergies, Flu, Cold, or COVID-19?

Ok, this is where it gets tricky. All of these diseases have some pretty similar symptoms, and when hospitals are crushed like this, you don't want to take time away from a healthcare worker — and risk a real COVID-19 infection — because the pollen count is up.

Using information from UNC Health, Baylor College of Medicine, and Maria Granzotti of Ascension Texas, here's how you can tell what's bothering you.

Allergies

Yes:

  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Runny nose (usually clear)
  • Itchy/red/swollen eyes 
  • Scratchy/sore throat

No:

  • Fever
  • Aches

If you don't have a fever and have all or some of the above, it's likely allergies. Another way to tell is if allergy meds or getting away from your usual allergens causes symptoms to go away.

Flu

Yes:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose/nasal congestion

No:

  • Shortness of breath

Flu and COVID-19 are very hard to tell apart, UNC Health says. The keys are shortness of breath, which is a sign of COVID-19, and runny nose and congestion, which are more likely signs of flu.

However, if the flu leads to pneumonia, it can cause shortness of breath. Pneumonia, whether caused by the flu, a bacterial infection, or COVID-19, is potentially very serious, especially for older people, and it should be examined whenever possible by a medical professional.

Common Cold

Yes:

  • Cough, mildly dry (bringing up some mucus)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose, often viscous and colored
  • Aches and pains
  • Rarely fever, and if so, usually mild

Fever and shortness of breath are the big factors here: a common cold likely won't have either. And if you hack up some disgusting-tasting mucus, so much the better!

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