What are they? They are fever, shortness of breath, and cough. And at least one of them was present in almost all COVID-19 patients studied. Those were the core symptoms listed by the CDC at the beginning of the outbreak also. Over time, the list of COVID-19 symptoms has expanded, and the CDC’s own list contains a total of 11 possible symptoms. In fact, the study indicates that “U.S. COVID-19 patients report a wide range of symptoms across a spectrum of illness severity.” However, the three symptoms were isolated as being the most common.
“Fever, cough, or shortness of breath were commonly reported among a convenience sample of U.S. COVID-19 patients with symptom onset during January–April and a range of illness severity; gastrointestinal symptoms and other symptoms, such as chills, myalgia, headache, and fatigue, also were commonly reported,” the new study found.
Here’s what you need to know:
96% of COVID-19 Patients Reported Either Fever, Cough or Shortness of Breath
According to the CDC, “To better understand symptom profiles of patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 in the United States, CDC used an optional questionnaire to collect detailed information on a convenience sample of COVID-19 patients from participating states.”
The CDC found: “Among 164 symptomatic patients with known onset during January 14–April 4, 2020, a total of 158 (96%) reported fever, cough, or shortness of breath…Nearly all of the 164 symptomatic patients (96%) reported one or more of the typical signs and symptoms of fever, cough, or shortness of breath; 45% of patients reported all three.” The changes a person reported having all three symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) increased with age.
A lot of people also reported all three symptoms. Among 57 hospitalized adult patients, 68% reported all three of these symptoms. That figure dropped to 31% of people who didn’t end up in the hospital.
“Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms and other symptoms, such as chills, myalgia, headache, and fatigue, also were commonly reported, especially after expansion of testing guidelines,” CDC reported. “For this report, fever (measured or subjective), cough, or shortness of breath, all of which have been frequently described among COVID-19 patients, were classified as typical signs or symptoms.”
More Than Half of Patients Studied Had Other Symptoms
A large percentage of people also reported a variety of other symptoms.
“Each of the following symptoms was reported by >50% of patients: cough (84%), fever (80%), myalgia (63%), chills (63%), fatigue (62%), headache (59%), and shortness of breath (57%) (Figure). Approximately half of patients reported one or more GI symptoms; among these, diarrhea was reported most frequently (38%) and vomiting least frequently (13%),” the study says.
“Changes in smell or taste were reported much more frequently after March 8 (30%) than before (3%).”
The CDC noted that more people reported a variety of symptoms as testing expanded.
“Symptoms other than fever, cough, and shortness of breath were reported more commonly after testing guidelines were expanded. This change might reflect an expansion of the types of patients eligible for testing and an increased awareness of other COVID-19 symptoms over time, such as changes in smell or taste,” the agency wrote.
On its website, CDC says these 11 symptoms can be a sign of coronavirus:
Fever or chills
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Muscle or body aches
New loss of taste or smell
Congestion or runny nose
Nausea or vomiting