Coronavirus Infections - Everything You Need to Know

Find out what it is, the most common symptoms, best ways to treat, and more

What Is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses infect both humans and animals. And COVID-19 is a disease caused by coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

These types of viruses cause the common cold, which is an infection of the upper respiratory tract. The nose, mouth, and throat are part of the upper respiratory tract.

SARS-CoV-2, like its relatives SARS and MERS, can also infect the lower respiratory tract (like the lungs) and cause viral pneumonia.

Most common symptoms

Most people with COVID-19 experience

  • Fever
  • Cough (dry or with phlegm)
  • Shortness of breath (or trouble getting air in the lungs)

Other possible symptoms include

  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Coughing up blood
  • Headache
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Unable to smell or taste food
  • Stroke or blood clots
  • Painful, swollen, red toe(s)
  • Heart conditions (like low blood pressure, high heart rate) with rash, fever, and belly pain in children

Most people fully recover from COVID-19. But some people have more severe symptoms. Breathing problems worsen and can lead to low oxygen levels, which puts vital organs at risk.

COVID-19 can also develop into pneumonia and damage the lungs. Some people eventually require a breathing tube or ventilator. In addition, COVID-19 can weaken the heart, causing abnormal heart rhythms, chest pain, and trouble pumping blood.

So far, children and young adults have fewer complications from COVID-19. At this time, it is unclear whether pregnant women are at higher risk.

Some people are more likely to get lung problems from COVID-19, including

  • Older adults
  • People who have a weakened immune system due to illnesses like cancer, HIV, or lupus; or from medications like chemotherapy, steroids; or some treatments for inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • People who have liver disease, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and lung diseases such as COPD and emphysema.

How Does COVID-19 Spread?

Most cases of COVID-19 spread person to person. COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets. Usually, as someone coughs or sneezes. The droplets released in the air can carry the virus. Similarly, you can get it from a person who breathes near you. That’s why everyone is told to stay 6 feet away from people whenever possible.

COVID-19 can also live on contaminated surfaces. If someone touches a surface that has the virus on it and then touches their face, it can transmit the virus.

COVID-19 spreads more quickly and easily than the flu. Isolation, quarantines, and social distancing are some of the best ways to protect yourselves and others.

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What to Do Next

Remember, most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and improve on their own.

If you are worried that you or a family member may have symptoms of COVID-19—especially fever, cough, or trouble breathing—try Buoy’s AI assistant. It will help you figure out what to do next. It is updated frequently to reflect CDC guidance and the latest research for COVID-19.

Buoy’s will ask about your symptoms and general medical problems. It will also help you decide about next steps. That may mean staying at home, calling telemedicine or your primary care doctor, trying to get tested, or going to the emergency department.

It is important to think carefully about your next step and not be scared. If you can safely stay home with mild symptoms, or use telehealth or the phone whenever possible, it means the sickest and most vulnerable people in our community will get care sooner. Otherwise, hospitals and emergency departments and their staff will be overwhelmed. This can be dangerous for everyone.

If you decide that you need to be seen at your doctor’s office or hospital, call ahead before heading in—unless it is a medical emergency. They may need to prepare for your visit to make sure you don’t pass the virus to others.

At this point, testing for COVID-19 in the United States is limited. The CDC recommends testing people who have a known exposure, including those who work in healthcare. It also recommends testing people with symptoms who are at higher risk for lung problems, including older people, people with weakened immune systems, and those with chronic medical issues. If admitted to the hospital with pneumonia, you will probably get tested.

How to Treat at Home

The home treatment for COVID-19 is similar to that for the common cold or flu. As of now, there are no specific medications to fight the virus. There is also no vaccine. It could take a year or longer to develop one. What you can do:

  • Isolate to avoid infecting other people.
  • Take over-the-counter medicine for pain, fever, and cough.
  • Rest in bed.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.

It is crucial to isolate from others. If you have COVID-19 (or think you might have it), you need to self-isolate until your healthcare provider or local health department says it’s OK to stop. It keeps other people safe and is a first step in ending the pandemic.

  • Stay home.
  • Do not go outside to any public places unless to see a doctor.
  • If you live with other people, you can’t be in the same room unless it’s impossible. Also, use a separate bathroom if you can. If not, disinfect it after you use it.
  • Wear a facemask, if you have one, whenever you’re around other people.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
  • Wash hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and warm water.
  • Disinfect your area every day.

If your symptoms get worse, call your doctor. If you feel like you can’t breathe, call 911 or go to the ER.

Preventative Tips

Social distancing is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  • Stay at least six feet away from anyone you don’t live with—no handshakes or hugs.
  • In public places, like grocery stores, do your best to stay at least six feet from anyone you don’t live with. And wash hands as soon as you are home.
  • Work from home if it’s an option.
  • Cancel playdates and postpone any events, even if it’s in your home.

It’s also important to:

  • Wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Do your best not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. It can put germs directly into your body.
  • Stay away from anyone who seems sick. If they’re in your home, ask them to self-isolate.
  • Stock up on a 15- to 30-day supply of food and other household essentials. And have a 30- to 60-day supply of prescription medication. But no hoarding. Leave enough food and supplies for everyone else.
  • Don’t panic. Many precautions are already in place. And most people with COVID-19 will make a full recovery.
Hear what 6 others are saying
35+ days since first symptom: How long is this supposed to last?Posted May 1, 2020 by R.

Day 35 and I'm still dealing with a fever and fatigue... Day 1: March 28—difficulty breathing, fever at 101. Day 2-6: no symptoms. Day 7: April 3—difficulty breathing/chest tightness, fever around 101, soreness, fatigue, lower abdomen pain. Day 8–9: difficulty breathing/chest tightness, fever 100-101, soreness, fatigue, lower abdomen pain, diarrhea. Day 10–26: April 6–22—occasional difficulty breathing and chest tightness not constant, fever 100-101, slight fatigue (much more energy). Spoke to a doctor virtually—advised to rest and not leave house. Day 27—29: April 23–25—Congestion in nose, scratching throat, sneezing often, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and right tonsil, neck sore to touch. Fever 102 Day 29: spoke with a virtual doctor. Prescribed antibiotics to treat secondary infection. Diagnosed as strep. Day 30—31: April 26–27—symptoms began to subside from secondary infection. Occasional stomach pains (believe to be from antibiotics & probiotics). Fever 100-101. Day 32–35: April 28–May 1—fever remains between 100–101. Slight fatigue.

Confused about COVID-19Posted April 14, 2020 by A.

Female, age 39. Last night I started with a sore throat and aches, mostly in my upper legs and arms. I have NO FEVER! I had tried to get ahold of my PCP but ended up with a different doctor. She told me to go to a testing site for Covid-19 and I am scared because I am a heart patient and I have an autoimmune disorder. I am not sure what to do. I am really scared that I may have it and I'm really scared to go get tested. And even if I do get tested and have it, they are not going to do anything for it unless I am very sick and need to be in a hospital. I am just unsure of what to do. I did call back my doctors to see if I can speak to my primary care to see what he says

Possible COVID experience from a healthy 24-year-oldPosted April 8, 2020 by R.

Female, age 24. On March 28th, I experienced shortness of breath, like I couldn't take in enough air. My throat was also tight, so I took my temperature and it was 101. The next day, I felt fine and had no temperature. Over the next week, I went for a couple of runs and experienced no symptoms. That Friday, April 3rd, I woke up feeling exhausted and my shortness of breath was back. I took my temperature and it was 100.5. Since then, my temperature has remained in the 100-101 range. My eyes feel tired and my muscles sore (like I just did an intense lifting workout). The chest tightness and shortness of breath comes and goes—mostly after meals. If you have experienced anemia, it feels exactly like that. I don't feel terrible but I do feel off. I am not bedridden and have enough energy to continue working remotely. I spoke to my PCP and she urged me not to seek medical attention to get tested, but Buoy Symptom Checker suggested otherwise. Other symptoms have been diarrhea and stomach pains (early on), clammy hands and lightheadedness. I have no congestion, cough or loss of smell. I know I will fully recover; I just hope my fever drops soon.

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