These COVID Symptoms Show Up First, Says Study

Michael Martin
·2 min read
woman lying on sofa having fever

For health experts, one of the scariest unexplained things about the coronavirus is that it can affect people so differently: One healthy 28-year-old might contract COVID-19 and experience no symptoms at all, while another might have serious issues that culminate in a stroke. Scientists are still trying to figure out why the virus's behavior can vary so drastically within the human body, but one study has found that there may be a commonality in how COVID-19 presents itself.

A recent analysis of studies found that people infected with COVID-19 are more likely to experience symptoms in a common order: fever, cough, nausea and vomiting, then diarrhea. By looking at nearly 56,000 COVID cases documented by the World Health Organization in China, the researchers found that the coronavirus tends to cause fever first, followed by upper respiratory tract symptoms (like cough), then gastrointestinal symptoms. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

Knowing Order of Symptoms May Speed Diagnosis

The analysis—which also found that COVID-19 is two to three times more contagious than the common flu—found that fever and cough were consistently the first two symptoms, but in some people may be followed by sore throat, headache or muscle pain before progressing to GI symptoms.

"The most likely path of COVID-19 symptoms is fever, then cough, and next either sore throat, myalgia [muscle pain], or headache, followed by nausea/vomiting, and finally diarrhea," the scientists wrote. They noted that the order of symptoms did not seem to affect the severity of disease.

The researchers suggested their findings might help doctors diagnose COVID-19 more quickly and reduce the disease's spread. "The importance of knowing first symptoms is rooted in the need to stop the spread of COVID-19," they wrote. "There is a heightened risk in COVID-19 being passed on, so faster testing and social distancing are important, especially when social distancing and quarantine measures are relaxed."

Complicating this aim is a fact that has bedeviled doctors and scientists since the beginning of the pandemic: Up to 40 percent of people infected with COVID-19 may experience no symptoms at all, allowing them to spread the disease unknowingly.

RELATED: This is the #1 Way You'll Get COVID, According to Doctors

How to Survive the Pandemic

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.