Chief medical officer explains the common COVID-19 symptoms

Woman coughing

Researchers are discovering more each day about COVID-19 and the varying symptoms the disease causes.

The most common symptoms of the mysterious novel coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. But Augusta University Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule says there are additional symptoms of the virus that mimic the common cold or flu.

“COVID-19 symptoms can be experienced within 14 days of being exposed to the virus, which is why the public needs to recognize the signs to protect themselves and their loved ones,” said Coule.

Below are indicators Coule says to look for if you think you or a loved one has COVID-19.


A key sign of COVID-19 is a fever, which indicates the body’s temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Since everyone’s core temperature changes throughout the day, check your temperature in the early to late afternoon for a more accurate reading. If the fever lasts more than two to five days, seek medical attention.

Shortness of breath

Considered to be the most serious of the symptoms, shortness of breath is not always the first symptom to appear, and it can occur without a cough. If the chest feels tight or you can’t breathe deeply, seek medical attention right away.

Upset stomach

Although cough and fever are usually the initial signs of COVID-19, it’s important to know that abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea can happen before respiratory symptoms appear. If these symptoms continue to worsen, it may not be a stomach bug but a sign of a more serious condition, like the coronavirus.

Tiredness and body aches

Many patients with COVID-19 experience fatigue, flu-like chills, and achy joints and muscles. A recent report from the World Health Organization stated nearly 40% of COVID-19 patients had moments of tiredness. Although these symptoms happen with the flu, it could be the coronavirus if things don’t improve after a week or so.

Dry cough

A dry cough is felt deep within the chest with no mucus or phlegm being produced. Dry coughs can be a symptom of a variety of other illnesses, including allergies and asthma. However, if you are coughing and experiencing other symptoms related to COVID-19, consider getting tested for the coronavirus.

Moments of confusion

Sudden confusion or the inability to be alert is a serious symptom of COVID-19, and emergency care should be given.

Headaches, sore throat and congestion

Headache is not a common COVID-19 symptom, but nearly 14% of patients experienced it, according to the Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Sore throat and congestion can also be signs of the common cold or flu, but they can also indicate a more serious condition, such as COVID-19. So, get tested if your symptoms worsen or last longer than normal.

Loss of smell and taste

In mild to moderate COVID-19 cases, the loss of smell and taste, or anosmia, seems to be an early sign of the virus. However, anosmia can also be a result of the common cold, congestion or medications. If you believe you’re experiencing anosmia and do not have a medical reason to explain the loss, take the symptom seriously and get tested.

Patients concerned about COVID-19 can now be screened for the virus by using the AU Health COVID-19 Virtual Screening website or downloading the AU Health Express Care app for Apple or Android devices. Through the new telehealth platform, patients can now receive free virtual screenings for coronavirus, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no appointment required.

Read the latest news on COVID-19 on our dedicated resource page , and check out the Augusta University Expert Center to view a complete list of our experts.


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Written by
Danielle Harris

Danielle Harris is Senior Media Relations Coordinator at Augusta University. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at 706-721-7511 or

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Written by Danielle Harris

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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