The Earliest Signs You Have COVID, According to the Mayo Clinic

These early symptoms could tip you off to a COVID case.

Spotting a case of COVID early could very well be the key to stopping widespread transmission. And while most people know the most common symptoms of the virus, you may not know what to keep an eye out for in its earliest stages. That's why the Mayo Clinic has weighed in with their list of common symptoms that you might expect soon after infection. The health authority explains that signs and symptoms of coronavirus typically present within two to 14 days after exposure, with some often arriving sooner than others. A recent study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine further specifies that the average symptomatic patient starts to display symptoms after 5 days, with over 97 percent of symptomatic cases presenting within 11 days.

While shortness of breath, sore throat, chills, muscle aches, and more can often mark a case of coronavirus, there are four key symptoms the Mayo Clinic wants you to look out for early on. Read on to find out which common symptoms should be on your radar soon after exposure, and for the symptoms that signal something serious, check out If You Have One of These Symptoms, the CDC Says Go to the Hospital Now.

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man checking his temperature and making a phone call

Fevers are closely associated with coronavirus, and according to the Mayo Clinic, they can alert you to a COVID case early on.

However, experts also warn that while fever is one of the most common symptoms, you can be infected without one and should still exercise caution even if you don't have a fever. And to learn what could determine how your case plays out, read up on how This One Thing Could Determine If Your COVID Case Will Be Severe or Mild.


young man coughing while wearing a mask

Coughs are common in the winter, and don't necessarily indicate COVID. But as most of us know by now, a dry cough is one of the telltale signs of the virus, and can be an early indicator that you've been infected. The CDC estimates that at least 51 percent of COVID patients and up to 84 percent of hospitalized patients present with a dry cough. And if you're curious what to look out for with this symptom, This Is How to Tell If Your Cough Is COVID, Doctors Say.


Life during covid-19 pandemic. Portrait of stressed stylish woman in blue blouse with medical mask outdoors on the city street.

The Mayo Clinic lists tiredness as one of the early symptoms of COVID, and experts point out that it's also one of the most common symptoms of the disease overall. Robert A. Salata, MD, program director of the UH Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health, told the Cleveland Clinic that he estimates that 75 percent of coronavirus patients experience some level of fatigue. And for more COVID news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Loss of taste or smell

Man eating cereal lost his sense of taste

A recent study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine found that out of 2,581 patients observed across 18 European hospitals, 74 percent presented with a loss of taste or smell. The good news? Nearly 86 percent of those patients with olfactory dysfunction went on to have a mild case of COVID, suggesting that this particular set of symptoms is associated with a better prognosis than others. And to spot a commonly misdiagnosed symptom, check out This Is One of the Most "Easily Overlooked" COVID Symptoms, Experts Warn.

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