The holiday season this year is going to be very different. The angst that is present because of the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to change even the most enduring traditions. From video conferencing to spending time social distancing, there will be many changes for families across the country. If you are still planning on spending time with family, it is important to remember that the symptoms of COVID-19 are diverse. As an emergency physician, these are the early symptoms I have found to be most prevalent in my patients. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
COVID-19, like many upper respiratory viruses, can cause fevers and chills. Although a fever alone does not guarantee that you have COVID-19, it is a very common early symptom that many patients experience. It can also be for a short duration, causing fevers for just a few hours to days. Some patients will develop worsening of their symptoms after the fever, while others may experience no further COVID-19 complications.
Many patients will develop a sore throat as an early sign of COVID-19. Prior to COVID-19, sore throat caused by a strep infection was a very common diagnosis. Many patients actually come to the Emergency Department specifically requesting strep throat treatment as they assume their symptoms are indicative of strep throat. Especially in areas where COVID-19 is on the rise, a sore throat should be considered to be COVID-19 until proven otherwise.
Another very common early symptom of COVID-19 is fatigue. Some patients are reporting that the fatigue caused by COVID-19 is severe enough to make returning to normal activities very difficult. Even for the patients with minor symptoms, many are reporting at least a few days where they feel wiped out and exhausted.
Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are some of the most common reasons that people will come to the Emergency Department. It also has been found to be another early symptom of COVID-19. Although nausea and vomiting does not specifically mean a patient has COVID-19, it is certainly a reason to be vigilant of your symptoms and seek out appropriate care.
Loss of Taste and Smell
One of the most interesting symptoms of COVID-19 is the loss the sense of taste and sense of smell. Normally not associated with upper respiratory infections, it is a very common finding for COVID-19. Some patients never develop any other symptoms, while others can progress to any of the known COVID-19 complications.
As with many upper respiratory viruses, one of the most common early symptoms is cough. Many patients are describing a nagging cough that is sometimes associated with a large amount of phlegm. Although it is a known early symptom, it can also linger through the entire disease course.
Another early reported symptom of COVID-19 is that of headaches. Patients do not describe the headache associated with COVID-19 in any specific way, such as location, or severity of onset. It does not mean every headache should be viewed as possible COVID-19, but it should raise the concern especially if there was a high risk exposure.
Many patients have been presenting to the Emergency Department recently with increased nasal congestion and sinus pressure. This has been found to be one of the early signs of a COVID-19 infection. As the winter descends, and the pandemic persists through the normal "cold and flu season" it is becoming more difficult to determine if patients have COVID-19 or some other cause of congestion.
Final Word From the Doctor
Symptoms of COVID-19, especially the early symptoms can be very vague. Although the concerning findings of shortness of breath, or low oxygen levels are discussed in the news, most patients have more benign symptoms. Patients must have an understanding of these symptoms and stay vigilant to their progression. With the Holiday Season coming up, it is important to ensure that even vague symptoms be monitored to ensure that the risk of spreading COVID-19 is minimized. If you exhibit any of these symptoms, or any other symptoms, do not hesitate to discuss with your primary care physician. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.