Know the Symptoms: How to Tell If You Might Have the Coronavirus

Know the Symptoms: How to Tell If You Might Have the Coronavirus

Do your duty. Hash your hands. Stay home. Hydrate.


In the span of one month, the United States has gone from less than one hundred positive cases of the coronavirus to over 140,000 spread across every state in the union. As more people become infected, it is increasingly important for people to be able to recognize the symptoms of the disease in themselves and others. 

For a majority of people, symptoms will look like the regular seasonal flu. This includes a dry cough, a fever, a headache, and body fatigue. “Self-management at home for mild symptoms would be similar to other colds or the flu: rest, stay well hydrated, isolate away from other family members,” recommends Dr. Abraar Karan, a Harvard Medical School physician. Folks with mild cases may treat their symptoms with over-the-counter medication Tylenol. 


“I first noticed a headache that seemed to originate behind my eyes and through my temples. I had a dry cough and difficulty breathing that I only noticed when I exerted myself, like when I was running up the stairs, when I was playing with my dog, or when I tried to work out from home. I felt achy and had the chills,” described a nurse who developed the coronavirus. 

For individuals self-quarantining at home because they show symptoms, or isolating themselves because they’ve already tested positive, it’s important that they avoid as much contact as possible with the people they live with. This includes eating separately, sleeping alone in a bed, and the regular disinfecting of common surfaces like knobs and the bathroom. 

“I wipe down the doorknobs, the light switches, the faucets, the handles, the counters with disinfectant. I swab my phone with alcohol. I throw the day’s hoodie into the laundry at night as if it were my scrubs. I wash all our towels, again and again,” wrote a wife, describing life with her husband who has tested positive for the virus.

The intensity of these flu symptoms vary widely depending on the individual and their health history. They can range from exceedingly mild, to near debilitating. “It gradually got worse every day. I started feeling very weak, having bad headaches. My neck hurt. I was nauseous. I couldn’t take a deep breath. My chest hurt, my ribs were sore, it hurt to breathe,” described another victim.

Roughly 20 percent of people with coronavirus will require hospitalization because of more dangerous symptoms. If a person is suffering from shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, they should be taken to a hospital immediately. They may require the use of a ventilator to maintain healthy breathing for the duration of the virus. 

The reason the virus has been able to spread so widely is that so many of the people infected are actually asymptomatic. They carry the virus, and are able to pass it on, without having any of the physical signs that have been described. That’s why it’s important everyone, whether they feel sick or not, practice social distancing for the duration of the pandemic. 

Hunter DeRensis is a senior reporter for the National Interest. Follow him on Twitter @HunterDeRensis.

Image: Reuters