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    COVID-19
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    COVID Symptoms Timeline: How Coronavirus Symptoms Change Day by Day

    COVID Symptoms Timeline: How Coronavirus Symptoms Change Day by Day

    As much as we try and act like it is no longer a thing, COVID-19 is still prevalent and infecting many people, although thanks to the vaccine it is not giving people the same severity of symptoms as it once did. As of December 2022, there have been around 22 million cases of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom. In the last seven days alone there have been over 27,000 cases in the United Kingdom, with figures being taken from the 12-19th of December 2022. At its peak, COVID-19 was infecting over 100,000 people a day. Whilst these numbers are quite far apart, 20,000+ infections in a week is still relatively large. 

    There has been a lot of talk since the start of the pandemic at the back end of 2019 about the symptoms of COVID-19. At the start of the pandemic, there was not a lot of information about the symptoms of coronavirus, however, as our understanding grew scientists and doctors were able to provide greater insight into the symptoms you should look out for. In this blog, we will detail the timeline of COVID-19 symptoms, with a nod towards how they change day by day. 

    Doctor assessing a patient for COVID using a PCR test

    What are the key symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

    COVID-19 is an infection that affects the respiratory system. There are a few symptoms that you can keep your eye out for. It is important to note that symptoms can change from person to person, however, the majority of people will suffer from the following (NHS, 2023), key symptoms:

    • Fever: A high fever (temperature over 38°C).

    • Cough: A dry, persistent cough.

    • Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing or feeling short of breath is a serious symptom of COVID-19.

    According to Mayo Clinic (2022), some more uncommon symptoms of COVID-19 include:

    • Fatigue

    • Body aches and muscle pain

    • Headache

    • Loss of appetite

    • Sore throat

    • Runny nose or nasal congestion

    • Nausea or vomiting

    • Diarrhoea

    • Loss of sense of smell or taste

    Some people will experience the majority of the symptoms mentioned and some people will not experience any of them. It really varies from person to person about what symptoms you will experience if you contract COVID-19. 

    How long does it take for coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms to start?

    Again, this will vary from case to case. The time it takes for symptoms to show will depend on many different factors, however, it will usually take between two to 14 days for symptoms to show after someone has been infected (NHS Scotland, 2023). The time between infection and symptoms showing is known as the incubation period of the virus. 

    The incubation period for COVID-19 will vary between the different variant strains of coronavirus (WebMD, 2024). It should be pointed out that some people will experience symptoms earlier or later than the average, and some people will not develop symptoms at all. People that do not develop symptoms are known as asymptomatic. 

    How many coronavirus (COVID-19) sufferers are asymptomatic?

    Asymptomatic people will not develop any symptoms when they contract COVID-19 even after the incubation period (NHS England, 2020). They will still have the virus in their systems and they will still be able to pass it on and infect other people. You will have heard all about people that are asymptomatic throughout the pandemic but you may not be aware of how many people actually are (Espinoza et al, 2021). It can be hard to count the number of asymptomatic people as they will not necessarily test themselves unless they need to for travel or work. 

    Studies have been conducted to determine how many people are actually asymptomatic. One study, conducted by Peking University in China of over 30 million people, found that 40% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 were actually asymptomatic (Ma et al, 2021). There are a few reasons why this figure may not be accurate on a larger scale. The number of asymptomatic people can vary based on the age of people tested, the pre-existing conditions of those that are tested, the location in which the people who are tested are from, and whether or not there is a variant of the actual virus that is prominent. Different variants of the virus can affect people differently (Huffington Post UK, 2021). 

    How long is Coronavirus (COVID-19) contagious for?

    It doesn’t matter if you are showing symptoms or if you are asymptomatic, if you test positive for COVID-19 then you are still contagious. The official guidance used to be that you would have to isolate yourself for up to 10 days, or until you had two days of negative testing back to back (GOV.UK, 2022). On average, people will typically stop being contagious when they have tested positive for COVID-19 around five days after they start to show symptoms or five days after their first positive test if they are asymptomatic (NHS, 2023). 

    How soon after COVID should I get tested?

    It's generally recommended to get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible if you have symptoms of the virus or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, although it is no longer a legal requirement (NHS Inform, 2024). This is because the virus can be most contagious in the early stages of infection. Once you have had COVID-19, you are generally safe from reinfection for up to three to twelve months (BBC Science Focus, 2023).

    What order will you get COVID symptoms in?

    It is hard to say an exact timeline of a COVID-19 infection as they will vary so much from person to person. Here is a rough guide, based on a research study, to the order in which you may face COVID symptoms if you are not asymptomatic (Healthline, 2024). 

    Time Period

    Symptoms

    Day of Infection and Two Days After InfectionNo symptoms or feint cold-like symptoms.
    Third-Day After Infection and OnwardsSore throat, coughing, muscle pain.
    Fourth Day and Possibly MoreDiarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. 

    It is important to note that you may not suffer from some of the symptoms. The symptoms mentioned in the table above are the most commonly faced by the majority of symptomatic people who are infected. The time at which you may face them may also vary. 

    Long COVID-19

    What is long COVID?

    Long COVID, also known as post-COVID syndrome, is a condition that means that symptoms of COVID-19 infection continue well after the initial infection (NHS, 2023). The symptoms of long COVID are the same symptoms of COVID-19, although they can be worsened as you experience them for longer. People with long COVID can also experience symptoms of mental health problems including anxiety and depression (University College London, 2023), but the reason for this is unknown. There is no real known cause for long COVID and it is unknown as to why some people will experience it and others won't (Cardiff University, 2024). 

    Video: Living with Long COVID

    The Scottish Government have put together a helpful video of long COVID patient, Marissa's experience living with the virus and how it impacts her day to day life, which you can watch below:

    What are the main symptoms of long COVID?

    The main symptoms of long COVID are the same as COVID-19. People that experience long COVID will often experience the following symptoms the most (NHS Inform, 2023):

    • Sore throats

    • Coughing

    • Muscle pain

    • Nausea

    • Anxiety and depression

    The severity of these symptoms will vary from person to person, however, they will often be worse than a regular COVID infection as you will be experiencing them for longer periods of time. 

    How long do the symptoms of long COVID last?

    The length of your long COVID symptoms can also vary depending on a number of factors. If you experience specific symptoms during your initial infection then chances are you are likely to experience them again if you have long COVID. On average, long COVID will last for a few weeks or a couple of months. In some cases, long COVID has lasted for up to a year. It must be pointed out as well that there is some information about long COVID that we do not know yet as the pandemic only occurred a short time ago. As time passes, we will begin to learn more about it. 

    Where can I get the most up-to-date guidance for coronavirus (COVID-19)?

    For the most part, the rules and regulations regarding COVID-19 have been lifted. You can check the gov.uk website to learn what you need to know about COVID-19 guidance. To purchase COVID tests or masks, shop online with UK Meds. 

    Sources

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    Blog author

    Scott Weaver

    Scott is an experienced and professional content writer who works exclusively for UK Meds.

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