If Your Symptoms Appear In This Order, You Likely Have COVID, Study Says

These four common symptoms could indicate that you've been infected—if they happen in this order.

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While there is a wide variety of symptoms COVID patients have reported experiencing, researchers have started to find patterns. In fact, one new study has broken down the order in which discernible, objective COVID symptoms will likely appear. If you're infected with a case that's not asymptomatic, you're likely to experience fever, then cough and muscle pain, followed by nausea and/or vomiting, and then diarrhea.

The disease caused by the coronavirus typically follows this path, according to the study that was published in the Frontier Public Health journal on Aug. 13. First a patient develops a fever, then upper respiratory symptoms, and finally, symptoms of the upper then lower gastrointestinal tract. The least likely path, according to this study, would be first diarrhea, then nausea and/or vomiting, followed by cough, and finally fever.

But the order appears to be commonly the same, no matter where it starts. For instance, if a COVID patient's first symptom is diarrhea, then their other symptoms will follow as stated above—so, diarrhea followed by fever, then cough and muscle pain, and finally, nausea and/or vomiting.

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The researchers note that discerning the likely order of coronavirus symptoms is important for distinguishing these cases from other respiratory illnesses. After all, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend asking your doctor about COVID-19 if you start experiencing a cough and fever—however, those are also two common symptoms of the flu.

"The importance of knowing first symptoms is rooted in the need to stop the spread of COVID-19, a disease that is two to three times more transmissible than influenza and results in outbreaks of clusters," the study reads. "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."

Fortunately for diagnostic purposes, researchers found that the order in which the novel coronavirus symptoms appear differs from the flu and other coronavirus-based illnesses such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). According to the study, the flu typically originates with a cough, not a fever, like the coronavirus. Like the flu, MERS and SARS are similar to the coronavirus but differ in that the order of diarrhea comes before nausea and/or vomiting.

Healthcare worker checking body temperature of a young sick man with contactless digital infrared thermometer.
iStock

To compare their COVID data more directly to these other respiratory diseases, researchers also added sore throat, myalgia, and headache—all reported symptoms of those illnesses—to their calculations in another model. However, even when studying these symptoms alongside the original four, they found that the pattern typically stays the same. Fever is usually the first symptom, followed by cough. And then, in the set of seven symptoms, sore throat, myalgia, and headache typically appear next, but in no particular order. Then, like the original set, nausea and/or vomiting is the second to last symptom, followed by diarrhea, as the last. And for more on how COVID can affect your body, check out The 98 Longest Lasting COVID Symptoms You Need to Know About.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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