COVID-19 has symptoms similar to the flu or common cold. That makes it hard to know what illness you've contracted and the proper treatment. COVID-19 symptoms vary from person to person. You might have a cough or body aches, or no symptoms at all. There's plenty more to know about COVID-19 and body aches.
How are body aches treated?
Fever, headaches, and body aches are typically the first sign of COVID-19. These pains can come on slowly or appear suddenly. Fortunately, there are multiple types of over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help reduce aches and pains. These nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include:
What are the first signs of COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus that requires early detection, so it's essential to know the first signs. The first symptoms may include fever or chills, a severe cough, or sore throat. Or you may experience nothing more than the loss of your senses of taste and smell.
Other early symptoms include congestion, fatigue, and body aches. A headache typically accompanies these. Since these are also flu and cold symptoms, it can be hard to determine the cause of your reactions.
Symptoms can be mild at first and worsen over a week or more. Worsening cough and shortness of breath are common as well. In some cases, pneumonia could occur. Since your condition can worsen, it's best to start treating mild symptoms immediately.
Symptoms of COVID-19
Symptoms can start anywhere between two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Each infected person can have various symptoms that may not look the same as those of others, even in the same family. Some people have mild symptoms. Others experience severe illness. While there are many COVID-19 symptoms, some of the most common include:
- Fever or chills
- Muscle or body aches
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
If you're experiencing these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor. They may recommend a COVID-19 swab test to determine the cause.
Difference between COVID-19, the Flu, and a Cold
The flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms and are both contagious respiratory illnesses. However, they're caused by two different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with SARS-CoV-2, and flu is caused by infection with influenza.
There's still plenty of research being done on the new COVID-19 virus. But currently, it appears to spread more easily than the flu. It also can cause more severe reactions in people. In contrast, it causes no symptoms in others.
Telling the difference between the two by symptom alone isn't reliable without testing to confirm a diagnosis. You may have trouble finding a provider to test you for both.
Symptoms of a cold are much milder than those of flu or severe COVID-19. You're not likely to get a fever or headache with an ordinary cold. Congestion and runny nose can be a symptom of all three illnesses. That's why you should monitor other symptoms to help narrow down your illness.
Flu and COVID-19 symptoms can both come on pretty quickly. However, COVID-19 can also intensify gradually. A unique identifier for COVID-19 is the loss of taste and smell. This is not a common symptom of the flu.
If you're worried about the onset of body aches, a persistent headache, and you're not sure if it's the flu or COVID-19, it's best to be safe and get tested.
When to see a doctor?
Monitoring your symptoms can help determine if you should call your doctor or seek immediate medical attention. You're more at risk for COVID-19 if you:
- Have chronic medical conditions.
- Are over the age of 65.
- Are not vaccinated.
Unbreakable fever. If you have a fever that doesn't reduce with specific fever-reducing medication, you should contact your doctor.
Difficulty breathing. Shortness of breath is a symptom of COVID-19. Constant breathing challenges make it hard to feel like you're getting enough air.
Unable to stay awake. If you're feeling confused and can't stay awake, you should seek immediate care. This is a severe symptom and needs to be addressed immediately.
Deciding when to call your doctor or go into the emergency room can be a difficult choice. If you do go to the hospital, you'll need to follow their social distancing and mask policy.
CDC: “Symptoms of COVID-19.”
Consumer Reports: "How to Handle Fever, Cough, and Body Aches If You Have Mild COVID-19."
John Hopkins Medicine: "Coronavirus Symptoms: 'Frequently Asked Questions.'"
M Health Fairview: "What does it feel like to have COVID-19, and when should I seek help?"
Michigan Health: "Cold, Flu or COVID-19? Here's How to Tell the Difference."
PeaceHealth: "Cold, flu, or COVID-19: Which one is it?"
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