These Are The Most Common Early Signs You Have COVID, Study Finds

Don't assume all COVID cases begin with a fever. Other symptoms are more common early on.

Just because a COVID symptom is common doesn't mean it will reveal itself early on. In fact, according to a survey of nearly 4,000 COVID patients, some of the symptoms we most strongly associate with the virus don't tend to emerge as its earliest signs. The study, conducted by researchers at Indiana University's School of Medicine in collaboration with Survivor Corps, highlights the broad range of initial symptoms patients experience in the first days of infection, and could completely alter whether and how you spot COVID early on. Read on to find out more, and to know how serious your COVID symptoms are, check out If You Have One of These COVID Symptoms, the CDC Says to Call 911.

The team of researchers, led by Natalie Lambert, PhD, launched an in-depth survey investigating COVID survivors' experiences with the virus, aiming to identify which symptoms tend to present early on during a course of illness. To collect their data, the team gathered 3,905 survey respondents who reported having symptomatic cases of COVID-19. As the study reports, participants answered a series of questions about their "medical history, underlying medical conditions, demographic information, the timing and severity of symptoms they experienced, the impact of COVID-19 on their health and mental wellness, and their experiences seeking medical treatment for COVID-19 health impacts."

Specifically, the team recorded the number and percentage of respondents who reported each symptom during their 10-day window of infectiousness. "Using these data points, we calculated how often each symptom was reported to occur within a 10-day window from participants' onset of symptoms (the period when they were most likely to be contagious)," the researchers explained of their methodology. This helped the researchers to identify which symptoms might serve as common early indicators of coronavirus in the general population.

The results upend some commonly held beliefs about which symptoms people should look out for early on. For example, the researchers found that while 38.7 percent of respondents reported experiencing fever or chills at some point in their illness, only 7.66 percent reported those symptoms within the first 10 days of infectiousness.

This just goes to show that no one symptom is a linchpin for diagnosis when experiences vary so widely, and that some of the symptoms most closely associated with the virus won't necessarily help you spot a case. Read on for the early COVID symptoms the researchers found were most commonly reported within the first 10 days of infection, ranked by the percentage of patients who experienced them early on. And for more on spotting coronavirus, check out This Strange Symptom Could Be the Only Sign You Have COVID, Study Says.

Read the original article on Best Life.

Muscle or body aches

Man having muscle ache

6.33 percent

And for more on this symptom, find out How to Tell If Your Back Pain Is COVID, Doctors Say.

Difficulty concentrating or focusing

Man with a headache

6.61 percent

Abdominal pain

Man with stomach ache

6.63 percent

And for more on this symptom, here's How to Tell If Your Upset Stomach Is COVID, Doctors Say.


Flushing toilet

7.14 percent

Fever or chills

Woman uses thermometer to measure temperature

7.66 percent

And for the exact temperature you should look out for, know that Your "Normal" Temperature Is Not Actually 98.6 Degrees, Doctors Warn.

Changed sense of taste

Woman can't taste ice cream

7.71 percent

Inability to exercise or be active


8.02 percent

Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

reaching for inhaler because of shortness of breath, heart warning signs

8.73 percent



9.48 percent

And for more on interpreting an aching head, find out How to Tell If Your Headache Is COVID, Study Says.


Woman coughing

10.65 percent

And for more on deciphering this symptom, here's How to Tell If Your Cough Is COVID, Doctors Say.


Fatigued man resting on couch

14.44 percent

Want to know if your fatigue is something to worry about? Check out If You're More Tired Than Usual, Here's How to Tell If It's COVID.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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