If You Have One of These COVID Symptoms, the CDC Says to Call 911

Memorize the CDC's five signs of a COVID emergency.

The key to acting fast in an emergency is knowing the plan ahead of time. That's why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that everyone memorize the most severe COVID symptoms so you know exactly when to dial 911. Read on to find out what they are, and for more signs of a serious bout of COVID, check out If Your Symptoms Appear in This Order, You May Have Severe COVID.

"If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately," the CDC says. "Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility."

Read on for the CDC's list of emergency symptoms, but keep in mind the agency notes their list "is not all possible symptoms" and that you should "call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you." And for more on how COVID spreads, check out This Is the Person Who Is Most Likely to Give You COVID, Study Finds.

Trouble breathing

Woman having trouble breathing

According to Harvard Health, some COVID patients will experience temporary shortness of breath due to anxiety. Cases that are brief and resolve on their own are "not worrisome," they explain.

"However, if you find that you are ever breathing harder or having trouble getting air each time you exert yourself, you always need to call your doctor," the Harvard Health experts explain on their website. "That was true before we had the recent outbreak of COVID-19, and it will still be true after it is over." And for more tips on interpreting your symptoms, check out This Is How to Tell If Your Cough Is COVID, Doctors Say.

Persistent pain or pressure in the chest

Man holding his chest having a hard time breathing

Having persistent pain or pressure in your chest could indicate a severe lung condition or a heart episode. "Very early into the pandemic, it was clear that many patients who were hospitalized were showing evidence of cardiac injury," Gregg Fonarow, MD, chief of the division of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles told the American Heart Association. As he explains, up to one fourth of hospitalized COVID-19 experience serious heart complications, including myocarditis and heart failure. And for other pains to pay attention to, check out This Strange Pain Could Be the First Sign You Have COVID, Study Says.

New confusion

dizzy woman holding wall

Coronavirus is believed to affect brain function in a staggering number of patients, with some reports estimating that 80 percent of patients experience neurological symptoms. While some of these symptoms are less directly linked with emergency cases (for instance, loss of taste and smell), confusion or delirium can indicate more serious conditions like low oxygen levels, seizures, and stroke. And for another serious symptom to beware of, check out If You Have This on Your Skin, You Could Have Severe COVID, Study Shows.

Inability to wake or stay awake


A sick asian woman lying on her sofa and covering her forehead with her hand

You should always call 911 anytime someone loses consciousness due to an illness, and it's no different in the case of COVID-19. If you are caring for someone with COVID and they lose consciousness, seek immediate medical attention. And for more regular COVID updates, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Bluish lips or face


Man and woman, senior man lying in hospital bed because of coronavirus infection, female doctor is giving medicine to a patient.

Usually if a COVID patient develops bluish lips or the color in their face turns blue, this indicates that their oxygen levels are dangerously low. Even if you're not displaying this serious symptom, you can monitor your oxygen levels at home with a pulse oximeter. Readings between 95 and 100 are considered healthy, while anything below 95 is typically considered cause for concern. And for more on severe COVID cases, check out If You Have This Blood Type, You're at a High Risk of Severe COVID.

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