Shortness of breath, a fever and a dry cough.
But as more people are tested positive for the virus, medical experts have found many patients are experiencing additional symptoms, too.
Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, a Mississauga-based infectious disease and tropical medicine physician with Trillium Health Partners, said headaches, loss of smell and taste, and chest pain are among the new symptoms of COVID-19.
“Most of the cases that got people’s attention at the very beginning were the severe cases,” Chakrabarti said.
“Those are people with severe shortness of breath, fatigue, high fevers and a dry cough. As the picture opened up, though, we started seeing more mild cases.”
COVID-19 patients –– especially the elderly –– are also mentioning gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, he said.
Chakrabarti added that there are typical symptoms people can have, but it is different for everybody and some symptoms are more common than others.
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How long do symptoms last for?
People who have tested positive for the new coronavirus can experience symptoms for an average of six days, he said.
It’s important to note, however, that you can be contagious for a lot longer.
Patients with severe cases can be contagious for up to two weeks after being exposed to COVID-19. Mild cases can be quite dangerous though too as people may be less inclined to take it seriously, Chakrabarti said.
If you have a mild case, Chakrabarti said, you can be contagious for nearly three days before you experience symptoms, and then for another eight days after you first show symptoms.
“It’s not the symptoms that they’re necessarily overlooking, it’s the fact that the symptoms they have are very mild,” Chakrabarti said.
“People think, ‘If I have something that’s really mild, then it’s not COVID-19’ because there’s a thought that COVID-19 is severe in everybody.”
But that’s not the case, he said.
For example, someone may have a sore throat and think it’s just allergies or dry air. They will then come into contact with a family member or friend who may have underlying health issues, causing them to potentially catch the virus.
How to properly practise self-isolation
Another challenge with the coronavirus is that some people can be contagious without showing any symptoms, Houston-based internal medicine physician Dr. Lukasz Kwapisz, previously told Global News.
That’s why it is important to take public health recommendations seriously by practising physical distancing and staying indoors.
“You really want to reduce the reservoir of the virus,” Kwapisz, who is also an assistant professor at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said.
“Meaning, for the virus to survive, it needs to continue to be spread. It needs to pass along to more people.”
What to do when you have symptoms
If you start having COVID-19 symptoms, you can use the COVID-19 symptom self-assessment tool. This can help you figure out whether you should seek medical attention.
Health Canada also explains on its website that if you have symptoms, you need to isolate yourself from others as soon as possible.
The government agency then recommends you either call a health care professional or the public health authority in the province or territory where you live, and tell them your symptoms and/or travel history. The health authority will then give advice on what you should do.
If you are instructed to self-isolate, you must do so for at least 14 days.
“But if you’ve developed a fever and significant shortness of breath –– to the point where you feel very uncomfortable and especially if you have health conditions like emphysema, asthma, heart conditions –– in these situations, we recommend that you go to the emergency department,” Chakrabarti said.
Who to contact if you have COVID-19 symptoms
Public Health authority hotlines to call per province or territory:
New Brunswick: 811
Nova Scotia: 811
Newfoundland and Labrador: 811 or 1-888-709-2929
Northwest Territories: 811
— With files from Olivia Bowden
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.
–– With files from Global News’
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