The first symptoms of COVID-19 typically show up between two and 14 days after exposure.
Experts say to watch for fever (88% of cases, according to the World Health Organization), dry cough (68%) and shortness of breath (about 20%). Close to 40% of those with the novel coronavirus experience exhaustion. Much smaller shares complain of a runny nose, headache or diarrhea.
The vast majority of cases — 80% — will be mild and can be managed at home without special treatment. Testing to determine if it’s COVID-19 isn’t even required in those cases. But people should stay away from others any time they are sick.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, certain symptoms should prompt someone to seek medical attention fast, whether it’s the virus or not. They include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Bluish lips or face
If you have very severe symptoms, call 911.
In a non-emergency case:
- Don’t just go to the doctor’s office or emergency room. Contact your healthcare provider through an online app or by phone. Going directly to your healthcare provider’s office may expose others to the virus.
- A healthcare provider will go over your symptoms. That expert will also consider your travel history or whether you have been in close contact with someone known to have COVID-19.
- If the person providing telemedicine triage decides you should be tested, you’ll be told where to get the test and a referral/authorization will be arranged.
- Take your ID.
- Once you’ve been swabbed (nose and throat), go home, self-isolate and wait it out until you hear the results.
Here are tips on helping to prevent the virus from spreading, most of this advice is very basic:
- Stop shaking hands.
- Stop touching your face.
- Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water (mentally hum the “Alphabet” or “Happy Birthday” song twice).
- Use hand sanitizer that contains 70% or more alcohol (if you can’t wash your hands).
- Avoid groups of people.
- Stay about 6 feet away from others
- Disinfect surfaces that someone with a virus might have touched or coughed or sneezed on.
- Cover your own cough and sneeze. After you throw a tissue away, wash your hands.
- If you’re sick, don’t give it to others. Isolate yourself.