We asked our expert about the differences between mild, moderate and severe COVID-19 symptoms and what we should do if we experience them.
We now know that up to 50% of people that are infected with coronavirus develop no symptoms at all, or only such mild symptoms that they do not realise that they have had it. Symptoms may be as mild as tiredness, some headaches or mild sore throat. If symptoms are present, they resolve in less than one week and do not come back.
You can manage these symptoms with rest, painkillers and drinking plenty of fluids. Paracetamol can control fever. There is no need to go to hospital and no need to get a COVID-19 test. You should self-isolate for 7 days to avoid infecting anyone else outside your household.
If you live with others who have not already had the infection you might be worried that they would catch it. If they do not already have symptoms, try to keep 2 metres apart from them at all times. Try not to share a bed or bathroom if at all possible. If the person you live with is vulnerable i.e over the age of 70 or has problems with their immune system, is pregnant or has severe long term conditions like heart or lung disease, try to arrange for them to stay with friends or another member of the family for 14 days.
Most people with coronavirus infection do not need to go to hospital and should just self-isolate for 7 days. The most common symptoms are fever, muscle aches, persistent cough, headache, runny nose, tiredness and some more unusual symptoms, such as loss of sense of smell or taste, have been reported. Just like the flu, the symptoms can vary from feeling pretty ok throughout despite the symptoms, or feeling really quite unwell. The symptoms will be worse in the first 3-4 days and will then improve, with most people feeling back to normal in 7-14 days. It seems to take a bit longer to get better if you are older and have underlying illnesses and the tiredness can last for several weeks.
You only need to contact a doctor if the symptoms are not starting to improve after about a week or the symptoms get worse, particularly if breathlessness becomes a problem.
The most severe complication of coronavirus infection is pneumonia, where the infection is in the lungs and breathlessness might be the worst symptom. Fever, cough and the other symptoms described for moderate infections are also present. Chest pain, dizziness or even getting a bit confused can occur. When breathlessness is severe enough that it limits what you can do, or other symptoms feel more severe than a “flu”, it is important to seek medical attention. In COVID-19, unlike some other lung infections, the symptoms are often worst about 1 week after the symptoms start and can take 2-3 weeks to improve in severe infections. Severe infections are likely to need time in hospital. After a severe infection you should expect to feel tired and have some persisting symptoms for up to 6 weeks.