Ask Dr. Nandi: New research finds pattern to early COVID-19 symptoms

Posted at 7:43 PM, Aug 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-18 19:43:59-04

New research has discovered a common pattern when it comes to COVID-19 symptoms. Scientists at the University of Southern California found that these symptoms tend to appear first and in a specific order.

This study is very interesting, the USC scientists found that when many people first start showing symptoms after being infected with the coronavirus, they tend to appear in this order: fever, then cough and muscle pain, followed by nausea, and/or vomiting, and diarrhea.

I hear many of my patients worrying how they’ll be able to tell if they’ve picked up influenza or if it’s COVID. So besides knowing that COVID-19 symptoms do have a common pattern when they first develop, the researchers also found that when it comes to influenza, coughing is usually the first symptom. Whereas fever as I mentioned earlier is the first symptom with COVID-19.

Also, adults rarely experience vomiting and diarrhea when infected with the flu. Whereas according to this research, vomiting and diarrhea are more common with COVID-19. So knowing this could help a person decide whether to get tested, to self-isolate or to seek help sooner rather than later.

The USC researchers looked at two datasets of COVID-19 patients from China, that when combined totaled just over 56,000 cases. And then they also looked at over 2,400 cases of influenza in North America, Europe, and the Southern Hemisphere.

After crunching the data, they came up with this data. But it’s important to keep in mind that this information should be used as a guideline only because not everyone develops the exact same symptoms.

Having said that, I think knowing that there is a likely order of COVID-19 symptoms can be quite useful especially for doctors. It could help them rule out other illnesses and decide whether someone likely has COVID-19 and what treatment to recommend.

But if someone believes that they do have the virus, you should seek testing regardless of what symptoms came first or second. And definitely to see medical help if your breathing is ever compromised.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

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View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

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