COVID Symptoms Usually Appear in This Order, Study Finds

by DailyHealthPost Editorial

Covid-19 is a tricky disease to identify without professional help. The virus can lead to over a dozen unique symptoms. In addition, patients experience different combinations and intensity of these symptoms. That’s why knowing the order in which they appear is important.

While many patients exhibit only one or even none of all these symptoms, most people go through at least two or three. And because the virus can have a fairly short incubation period of as little as 5-6 days, speed is of the essence. The sooner a Covid-19 treatment begins, the higher the chances for recovery are.

To help with those early diagnosing efforts, researchers from the USC Michelson Center’s Convergent Science Institute in Cancer have published a new study in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.


The study goes over the order of appearance of the 5 most common Covid-19 symptoms and also mentions some of the rarer ones and where they fall in the timeline of the disease’s development:

1. Fever

Fever is one of the most recognizable Covid-19 symptoms and it’s also one of the earliest ones. It’s a difficult symptom to ignore, especially if your temperature starts going not just above 98.6 Fo (37 Co) but 100.4 Fo (38 Co).

The problem with fever, however, is that it’s also associated with many other respiratory diseases such as the flu or even the common cold. Additionally, many people tend to ignore mild fevers, hoping that “it will pass.”

Catching Covid-19 while it’s still in the fever stage is one of the best ways to help deal with the problem as easily and as safely as possible. 

2. Cough

Not everyone experiences this symptom but it’s a very prevalent symptom in harder-hit patients. A Covid-19 cough can seem like a general flu cough at first but can get much worse very quickly.

“Considering that COVID-19 irritates lung tissue, the cough is dry and persistent. It is accompanied with shortness of breath and muscle pain,” states a report from ScienceAlert. “As the disease progresses, the lung tissue is filled with fluid and you may feel even more short of breath as your body struggles to get enough oxygen.”


If you’re experiencing a persistent dry cough, it’s crucial that you contact a medical professional immediately as well as that you quarantine yourself in order to protect those around you.

3. Muscle pain

This symptom often comes after the fever or cough or as a first symptom if you haven’t experienced the previous two. The combination of these three symptoms is a very strong indication of Covid-19 as most other respiratory viruses rarely lead to muscle and joint pain.

What does muscle pain even have to do with a respiratory virus?

“Muscle pain—often caused by muscle inflammation (myositis)—isn’t an uncommon symptom for a viral infection,” states Amir Barzin, DO, MS, incident commander for the Respiratory Diagnostic Center at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill. “In general, coronavirus, like other viruses, can cause inflammation of the muscle tissue.”

4. Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and/or vomiting is another common Covid-19 symptom that shouldn’t be missed. In fact, for a lot of patients, failing to seek medical help until this point can be fatal.

“The upper GI tract (i.e., nausea/vomiting) seems to be affected before the lower GI tract (i.e., diarrhea) in COVID-19, which is the opposite from MERS and SARS,” the USC Michelson team explains.


5. Diarrhea

The fifth symptom is another one you shouldn’t wait for – diarrhea. This symptom occurs when the infection has been allowed to reach your lower GI tract. 

“Diarrhea commonly occurs in people with COVID-19,” explains a report in Healthline. “One study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology examined 206 patients with a mild case of COVID-19. They found 48 people had only digestive symptoms and another 69 had both digestive and respiratory symptoms.”

Other broad-range Covid-19 symptoms

Unfortunately, a patient can suffer from Covid-19 and not experience any of the five common symptoms above. And while such Covid-19 cases usually fall on the milder side of the statistics they can still experience lots of long-term problems. And even without those, a patient who goes through Covid-19 easily can still spread the disease to others.

So, which are some of the other early symptoms we should look out for?

  • Loss of smell and taste. Also called anosmia and ageusia, these two symptoms can occur early – as soon or even before or instead of the fever. Acting as soon as you notice anosmia and ageusia is a good way to prevent further complications. Remember that the lack of fever doesn’t mean you won’t experience any other symptoms.
  • Chilblains. Also called “Covid-toes” chilblains are a livedo-type skin reaction that can occur simultaneously or instead of a fever. This is a reddish-blue discoloration of the skin due to an acute inflammation. 
  • Headaches, dizziness, and malaise. These symptoms fall on the rarer side of the statistics but can come instead of fever and coughing. They can be so intensive that they resemble a stroke. 
  • Chest pain. This is another early symptom that shouldn’t be ignored. Many patients experience chest pain instead of fever or coughing and go on to develop the later-stage life-threatening symptoms of Covid-19 within days.

Covid-19 can present with other symptoms or with no symptoms at all. However, the symptoms above tend to be the earlier observed in most patients. Catching the disease as early as possible is crucial for improving the chances of recovery or even just for self-quarantining in time and preventing the further spread of the virus.