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Coronavirus

New study: Surprising early warning signs of COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, our understanding of the disease continues to grow. In the earlier months of 2020, health officials stressed the importance of sanitizing surfaces and washing our hands — but now we know the disease also spreads through respiratory droplets.

This is why the consensus on mask-wearing has grown over the last several months. When masks are worn, fewer viral particles can escape into the air to infect other people. Tap or click here to see the top 14 face masks ranked according to scientists.

Even though 2020 is winding down, COVID-19 hasn’t taken a break. High-profile patients like U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Trump have brought even more attention to the disease and its symptoms. If you’ve been feeling under the weather and want to know if you should get tested, these new early warning signs can help you make a decision.

Early warning signs that COVID patients may have missed

Almost everyone knows the basic symptoms of COVID-19: A dry cough, fever and shortness of breath. But these three symptoms are usually seen once the disease has fully set in. Early symptoms, like losing your sense of taste and smell, are less well defined and harder to pinpoint.

RELATED: Google Maps now shows COVID hotspots

But new research out of King’s College of London is shedding some light on the earliest stages of the deadly disease. Using data from the COVID Symptom Study app, researchers have put together a new list of the most common symptoms in the first seven days of illness.

Here’s how it worked: the app surveyed thousands of COVID patients about symptoms they felt during their illness. Information was collected and analyzed for common threads — with overlapping symptoms grouped together.

Thanks to this study, we now know two early warning signs of a COVID-19 infection: headache and fatigue. Based on survey data, 82% of new patients experienced a headache while 72% experienced fatigue across all age groups. Only 9% of COVID-positive adults did not experience these symptoms in the early stages.

Following headache and fatigue, fever and a loss of taste and smell were other common early symptoms.

Beyond these early indicators, here are the other most common COVID-19 symptoms we know of according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or breathing difficulty
  • Fatigue
  • Body and/or muscle aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion and/or runny nose
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Symptoms of a severe infection include the following:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, seek emergency medical care immediately.

Do I have COVID-19 if I have a headache or fatigue? Should I get tested?

Despite being early warning signs, we don’t recommend diagnosing yourself based on a sudden headache or bout of fatigue. These symptoms can also be caused by other conditions like stress and lack of sleep.

If your symptoms stick around or other known COVID-19 symptoms appear, you may want to get tested. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is now listing community-based testing sites that can give you a diagnosis (and maybe some peace of mind).

Tap or click here to find a testing site near you.

Pay close attention to how you’re feeling and continue to practice social distancing in the coming months. Combined with mask-wearing, these measures will help protect yourself and others from contracting COVID-19. Stay healthy out there!

Tap or click here to see how to make your own mask.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.

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