By now, everyone knows about the key symptoms of coronavirus – fever about 37.8°C, new, continuous cough and loss of (or new change to) your sense of smell and/or taste. But there’s still much confusion about how quickly symptoms develop after exposure to the virus and what you can expect if you do become infected.
The main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.
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A World Health Organization report based on 56,000 confirmed cases revealed the most common symptoms to be:
Dry cough (68%).
Coughing up sputum (33%).
Shortness of breath (19%).
Aching muscles or joints (15%).
Sore throat (14%).
Blocked nose (5%)
Coughing up blood (1%).
Pink/redness of the whites of the eyes (1%).
Up to 1 in 10 people present with diarrhoea and feeling sick 1-2 days before they develop other symptoms.
To help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), avoid close contact with anyone you do not live with and wash your hands regularly.
To stop coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading:try to stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from anyone you do not live with or anyone not in your support bubble.
wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available wash your hands as soon as you get home
cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
wear something that covers your nose and mouth when it’s hard to stay away from people, such as in shops or on public transport do not touch your
eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
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It’s important to remember that even if you are ill enough to need hospital admission, most people are much more likely to recover than to die.
At the start of the pandemic, the UK was very poor at providing COVID-19 testing – in fact, people were only tested for COVID-19 if they were ill enough to require hospital admission. Therefore, the ‘case fatality rate’ – the proportion of people diagnosed with COVID-19 who died as a result of their infection – was very high.
Thus in April 2020, a UK study suggested that among people diagnosed with COVID-19, 0.66% (1 in 150 people) died. Even at this stage, the influence of increasing age was clear – among this group of patients, death rates ranged from 0.0016% among under-9s to 7.8% (1 in 12) among over-80s.
In fact, fewer than 10 children under 14 have died from COVID-19 in the UK during the entire pandemic, and the average age at death is over 80, with more than 90% of deaths among the over 65s.
While the NHS Test and Trace system has been beset by problems, it does by now have capacity to test the vast majority of people who develop symptoms. By the beginning of August 2020 the REACT study – a nationwide surveillance study – found antibody evidence suggesting 6% of people in England (about 3.3 million) had been infected since the pandemic began. At this stage, about 47,000 people (1 in 1,170 of the population) had died from it.
A ‘model-based analysis’ of the widely varying statistics on death rates for coronavirus, based on figures from 37 countries, suggests that even among people with more severe disease, the ‘case fatality’ ratio (the proportion of people with confirmed disease who died) is about 1.4% – about 1 in 300 among people under 60, 1 in 15 among all over-60s and 1 in 7 among over-80s.
Another paper backs up the idea that your risk of dying, even if you end up in hospital, depends largely on your age. While a significant number of people needing ICU treatment will not recover, recovery rates for people who do not need ventilation are good.
you develop symptoms:
Check for red flags on the NHS 111 online checker.
Isolate yourself from the outside world and anyone you live with, for at least ten days.
If you have symptoms, you can book a free test online.
Ensure everyone you live with isolates for ten days from the onset of your symptoms or positive test result or ten days from when they develop symptoms, whichever is the longer.
Look after yourself with plenty of rest, fluids and painkillers if needed.
Look out for the worsening symptoms above.
Seek medical help as needed.
Self-careThere are things you can do to treat mild symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) while you’re staying at home (self-isolating).
If you have a high temperature: get lots of rest drink plenty of fluids (water is best) to avoid dehydration –
drink enough so your pee is light yellow and clear
take paracetamol or ibuprofen if you feel uncomfortable
If you have a cough: avoid lying on your back – lie on your side or sit upright instead try having a teaspoon of honey – but do not give honey to babies under 12 months
If you feel breathless:
keep your room cool by turning the heating down or opening a window –
do not use a fan as it may spread the virus sit upright in a chair and relax your shoulders
try breathing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth, with your lips together like you’re gently blowing out a candle
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