How Can I Tell If I Have the Coronavirus (And What Can I Expect If I Do)?


by Phil Dodderidge, Vice-Chair Florida Keys Democrats

Editor’s Note: The following summary was drawn from publicly available information on COVID-19 and is intended to serve only as an informational resource, not as a substitute for medical advice.  If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus, please contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. 

How can I tell if I have the Coronavirus?  Some people are asymptomatic without any of the usual symptoms.  Most patients will have mild symptoms and get better on their own.  But about 1 in 6 will have severe problems (see list below).  The odds of more serious symptoms are higher if you are over 50 and/or have another chronic health condition, like diabetes or heart disease.

Here’s what to look for if you think you might have COVID-19:

Doctors in China found that symptoms usually begin 2 to 14 days after a person comes into contact with the virus and the most common symptoms among people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 include:

  • Fever: 99%
  • Fatigue:70%
  • Dry cough: 59%
  • Loss of appetite: 40%
  • Body aches: 35%
  • Shortness of breath: 31%
  • Mucus or phlegm: 27%

Other symptoms may include:

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Chills, sometimes with shaking
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Stuffy nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Dr. Richard Levitan is an emergency doctor at Bellevue Hospital in New York City.  In a recent op-Ed in the New York Times, he describes “silent hypoxia,” a form of oxygen deprivation caused by Covid pneumonia.  “Silent,” he calls it, “because of its insidious, hard-to-detect nature.”

Dr. Levitan goes on to describe, “when Covid pneumonia first strikes, patients don’t feel short of breath, even as their oxygen levels fall.  And by the time they do, they have alarmingly low oxygen levels and moderate-to-severe pneumonia (as seen on chest X-rays).  Covid pneumonia patients I saw had oxygen saturations as low as 50 percent.  Normal oxygen saturation for most persons at sea level is 94 to 100 percent.”  In the piece, Dr. Levitan recommends purchasing an oximeter which attaches to your finger and measures the oxygen level in your blood as part of your Covid diagnostic tool set along with a thermometer.  You can buy an oximeter on Amazon or eBay for $20 to $85 or more, shipping included.

Google has a self- assessment  to help you decide what kind of medical care you might need for COVID‑19.  It was developed in conjunction with the White House, FEMA and the CDC.  The self-assessment provides recommendations based on your age, any symptoms you may have, any potential exposure to people who may be infected such as recent travel, or living in or near a COVID hotspot; living in “care facility” or volunteering in a healthcare facility; and any chronic health problems.

The CDC recommends if you have a fever, cough, or other symptoms, you might have COVID-19, and to contact your healthcare provider.  Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home.  They recommend you:

  • Keep track of your symptoms.
  • If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), get medical attention right away.

Emergency Symptoms

Call a doctor or hospital right away if you have one or more of these COVID-19 symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Constant pain or pressure in your chest
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Sudden confusion

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, do not take chances.  Seek medical care as soon as possible.  Call your doctor’s office or hospital before going in.  This will help them prepare to treat you and protect medical staff and other patients.

Strokes have also been reported in some people who have COVID-19.  To identity someone having a stroke, remember the mnemonic FAST:

  • Is one side of the person’s face numb or drooping?  Is their smile lopsided?
  • Is one arm weak or numb?  If they try to raise both arms, does one arm sag?
  • Can they speak clearly?  Ask them to repeat a sentence.
  • Every minute counts when someone shows signs of a stroke.  Call 911 right away.