Covid update: Study suggests symptoms may show up in a particular order – what to expect

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Coronavirus UK developments are a mixed bag of emotions. On the one hand, vaccination efforts are being scaled up at an unprecedented rate, which should raise the national mood. The other side of the coin is the alarming escalation of hospitalised deaths and cases – yesterday recorded more than 1,000 daily deaths.

Widespread paranoia and panic is likely to be setting in, particularly if you’re showing early warning signs.

If you’re unsure whether you have COVID-19, a study conducted by University of Southern California has identified the order of symptoms as they progress.

The distinctive pattern the researchers lay out can help to determine whether symptoms such as cough are a sign of COVID-19 or a less serious ailment.

To predict the order of symptoms, researchers analysed rates of symptom incidence collected by the World Health Organization (WHO) for over 55,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in China.

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They also looked at a data set of almost 1,100 cases collected between December and January by the China Medical Treatment Expert Group for COVID-19 and provided by the National Health Commission of China.

To compare the order of COVID-19 symptoms to influenza, the researchers analysed data from over 2,000 COVID-19 cases in North America, Europe, and the Southern Hemisphere reported to health authorities between 1994 and 1998.

“The order of the symptoms matter,” said Joseph Larsen, lead study author and USC Dornsife doctoral candidate.

“Knowing that each illness progresses differently means that doctors can identify sooner whether someone likely has COVID-19, or another illness, which can help them make better treatment decisions.”

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According to study findings, this is the order of symptoms that patients can experience:

  • Fever
  • Cough and muscle pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea.

The study found that patients with seasonal flu more commonly developed a cough before the onset of fever,” Dr Robert Glatter, emergency physician, Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York, told health website Healthline.

“In reality, this may be difficult to discern since the flu often begins abruptly with a triad of symptoms, including back pain, chills, along with a dry cough.”

Glatter said that the study findings are potentially useful “when evaluating multiple patients in a busy clinical setting.”

According to the study, while influenza typically begins with a cough, the first symptom of COVID-19 is fever.

“Our results support the notion that fever should be used to screen for entry into facilities as regions begin to reopen after the outbreak of Spring 2020,” the study authors wrote.

How to respond to symptoms

If you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus COVID-19, get a test as soon as possible.

You and anyone you live with should stay at home and not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.

Anyone in your support bubble should also stay at home if you have been in close contact with them since your symptoms started or during the 48 hours before they started.

A support bubble is where someone who lives alone (or just with their children) can meet people from one other household.

Can I treat my symptoms at home?

There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19), but you can often ease the symptoms at home until you recover.

According to the NHS, if you have a high temperature, it can help to:

  1. Get lots of rest
  2. Drink plenty of fluids (water is best) to avoid dehydration – drink enough so your pee is light yellow and clear
  3. Take paracetamol or ibuprofen if you feel uncomfortable.

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