COVID-19 Symptoms May Show Up in This Order, Researchers Find
If it wasn’t difficult enough that it is an entirely new virus we knew nothing about, SARS-CoV-2 also bring symptoms shockingly similar to so many other upper respiratory tract infections. Although we’ve gained plenty of valuable information about this condition in the past few months, it’s still very hard to distinguish it from other diseases such as influenza without performing a test.
However, scientists figured out a new way of predicting whether someone has COVID-19 which might help to diagnose and treat patients earlier on: knowing which symptoms appear first.
Why the research matters so much
This knowledge also helps us analyze our own symptoms and self-isolate if we think we might be infected with the new virus until we receive a medical diagnosis.
Peter Kuhn, PhD, study author and professor of medicine at USC, says that knowing the order in which symptoms is also a great help for cases of overlapping illnesses such as getting both the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously.
Since treating such cases is considerably more difficult, specialists can better determine which combination of treatments works best depending on which condition manifests itself more aggressively.
The study results
Determining which symptoms appear first in COVID-19 compared to other illnesses was no easy task. Researchers analyzed data from the World Health Organization for over 55,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in China. They also looked at 1,100 of the earliest confirmed cases recorded between December and January by the China Medical Treatment Expert Group.
Furthermore, specialists compared the list of COVID-19 symptoms to those of influenza; for this project, the team used data from 2,000 influenza cases confirmed in North America, Europe and the Southern Hemisphere between 1994-1998.
According to these findings, here is the order of symptoms for COVID-19 cases:
- Cough and/or muscle pain
- Nausea and/or vomiting
By comparison, patients suffering from the flu experience a cough before the onset of fever.
Dr. Robert Glatter, emergency physician at the NY Lenox Hill Hospital, says that it would still be difficult to discern the two illnesses because the flu begins abruptly with multiple severe symptoms like pains, chills, dry cough and fever. The same can be said by COVID-19 since it also manifests itself all of the sudden.
However, Dr. Glatter admits that the study findings may be useful if specialists need to evaluate multiple patients in a busy clinical setting such as a hospital.
From a different point of view, these results also support the public initiative to check people’s temperature before entering any public facility.
There are STILL too many variables
As we heart more and more stories told by people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, we become aware of how versatile the manifestation of this new virus really is.
Although fever and cough still are the most prominent symptoms, it highly depends on the subject. Right now, scientists can’t even figure out why some patients experience a certain range of symptoms while others are completely different.
“In general, while fever is usually the most commonly described initial symptom of COVID-19 infection, the reality of what I see on the front lines is more variable. In fact, some patients may present only with loss of taste or smell and otherwise feel well. I have also seen patients present with ‘COVID-toes,’ or chilblains; a livedo-type [reddish-blue discoloration] of skin reaction in response to acute inflammation, in the absence of fever, cough or other respiratory symptoms.” – dr. Robert Glatter, emergency physician at the NY Lenox Hill Hospital
In fact, Dr. Glatter also talks about consulting confirmed cases of COVID-19 where patients’ only symptom was chest pain. Meanwhile, some patients are dealing with severe headaches, dizziness and malaise despite the absence of common symptoms such as fever.
As a conclusion, Dr. Glatter advises health professionals to remain vigilant while keeping an open mind about other possible diagnosis as well. Simply put, some people with cough and fever may not have COVID-19 while others with very mild cold-like symptoms may actually be infected.
What happens next?
That’s an excellent question I’d love to know the answer to. We’re still living difficult times filled with uncertainty from every point of view – but we are doing our best to stay safe and find a new way of continuing our lives.
Wellness Captain is dedicated to helping others achieve a better lifestyle especially now when we need it most. Our pandemic-related content might help your mind, body and heart during the last few months of 2020 and beyond: