Every news story, talk show, and meme is centered around the coronavirus (COVID-19) right now. With so much focus on it, it’s easy to psych yourself out and think you’re infected when you feel the slightest headache coming on. Compare these 11 subtle signs that you may have coronavirus to the symptoms you’re experiencing. Note: You don’t have to have all of these symptoms to be infected; please check with your medical provider to be sure.
Like many other viruses, COVID-19 may completely zap your energy. If you’re feeling unusually tired, it may be a subtle sign that you’ve contracted the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 44% to 70% of patients with coronavirus reported fatigue as a common symptom they experienced when they contracted the virus. If you simply stayed up late to binge watch your favorite show or you didn’t sleep well because you drank too much whiskey, your fatigue is explainable. If you can’t explain your full-body fatigue, cross-check it with the following symptoms of COVID-19.
The CDC reports a dry cough as a common symptom of coronavirus and 59% to 82% of patients diagnosed with the virus felt it coming on with a dry cough. According to Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H. from the Johns Hopkins Health System, the virus “travels to the back of your nasal passages and to the mucous membranes in the back of your throat.” This is what causes an instant dry cough as soon as you’re infected with the virus. Keep in mind, allergies may also cause a dry cough, so don’t jump to conclusions that you’ve been infected if this is the only symptom you experience.
About 31% to 40% of diagnosed coronavirus patients experienced a shortness of breath. According to the Mayo Clinic, a shortness of breath can be described as an “intense tightening in the chest, air hunger, difficulty breathing, breathlessness, or a feeling of suffocation.” You may experience a shortness of breath when you’re exercising intensely or if you’re experiencing anxiety or a panic attack. However, if you can’t catch your breath and there’s no reason for it, you may have been infected with coronavirus.
A fever is the most common symptom for those diagnosed with coronavirus. 83% to 99% of COVID-19 patients report experiencing a fever. According to Harvard Medical School, you have a fever if your body temperature is 100.4° Fahrenheit or higher. You may also experience “chills, sweating, muscle aches, nausea, and weakness.” Your body develops a fever when it’s working hard to fight off an infection or inflammation. Your fever may be a sign that you have the flu or it may be a symptom of COVID-19. Call your doctor if you develop a fever so you can potentially get tested for the virus.
If you couldn’t smell your toast burning or coffee brewing this morning, it may be cause for concern. One of the newly-reported and most subtle symptoms associated with coronavirus is a loss of your sense of smell, also referred to as anosmia. This symptom was discovered by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery when doctors found that many who tested positive for the virus had lost their ability to smell. “In South Korea, where testing has been more widespread, 30% of patients testing positive have had anosmia as their major presenting symptom in otherwise mild cases.”
The organization isn’t surprised by their findings, since viral or respiratory infections like coronavirus are known to cause a loss of smell. In fact, about 40% of the cases of anosmia are related in some way to a viral infection. If you noticed changes in your ability to smell, you may have been infected by COVID-19.
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, may also be a sign of a coronavirus infection, although it’s rare. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 1% to 3% of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 also had viral pink eye.
The Academy warns that patients who have conjunctivitis and “who also have fever and respiratory symptoms, including cough and shortness of breath, and who have recently traveled internationally, particularly to areas with known outbreaks (China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, or to hotspots within the United States), or with family members recently back from one of these areas, could represent cases of COVID-19.” If you contract conjunctivitis and have other symptoms, you may have been infected with the virus. If you’re at high risk for virus complications, have a fever, or have shortness of breath, call your doctor.
Another subtle symptom that was common among coronavirus patients is nausea or diarrhea. A study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology analyzed the symptoms of over 200 people who were diagnosed with COVID-19. About half of these patients claimed to experience stomach issues, including either diarrhea, nausea, or both.
If you’re feeling nauseous or you’re experiencing diarrhea, it may just mean you overdid it on the quarantine snacks. However, if this symptom is coupled with other coronavirus symptoms, such as a dry cough, you may have been infected with the virus.
If you’re having trouble tasting your food, it may also be a sign of a respiratory or viral infection such as coronavirus. A loss in your sense of taste, called dysgeusia, is related to losing your sense of smell, which is also a newly diagnosed symptom of the virus. While it’s not a primary symptom of coronavirus, Dr. Rachel Kaye, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, claims many patients she saw who later tested positive for coronavirus were complaining that “everything tastes like cardboard.”
After analyzing many cases, the American Academy of Otolaryngology confirms, “Anecdotal evidence is rapidly accumulating from sites around the world that anosmia and dysgeusia are significant symptoms associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.” If you’ve lost your sense of taste, it may simply mean you’re dealing with allergies or a common cold. But it’s better to be safe than sorry and stay away from friends or loved ones.
Generally, sinus congestion or a runny nose are signs you’re dealing with allergies, a common cold, or a sinus infection. A runny nose is generally not a symptom of coronavirus in adults. However, this mild symptom may be more common in children infected with the virus. According to the CDC, “Children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms. Reported symptoms in children include cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough.”
Body aches and muscle soreness commonly accompany a fever. If you know you have a fever, it’s no surprise that you’re also feeling some muscle weakness. According to the World Health Organization, about 15% of patients diagnosed with coronavirus experienced body aches or joint pain. Your body aches could be a sign that you’re dealing with another illness, such as the flu, or that you’ve been infected with the virus. If it’s accompanied by other symptoms, such as a fever and dry cough, contact your doctor.
Overall, coronavirus symptoms are similar to what you’d experience if you caught the flu. According to Dr. Jake Duetsch, founder and clinical director at Cure Urgent Care, “In terms of differentiating between flu and COVID-19, it can be almost impossible to distinguish. Fevers, body aches, coughing, sneezing could all be equally attributed to them both, so it really means that if there’s a concern for flu, there’s a concern for COVID-19.”
If you’re experiencing these symptoms and you’re not sure whether it’s the flu or the virus, better safe than sorry. Call your doctor to discuss whether you need to be tested for coronavirus or should self-quarantine.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 50 Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.