Days 1 to 3
Early symptoms of Covid-19 vary widely. It can start with a tickle in your throat, a cough or sore throat, fever, headache and feeling winded or just a little pressure in your chest. Sometimes it begins with a bout of diarrhea. Some people just feel tired and lose their sense of taste and smell. Many people have several symptoms but no fever. Some patients with gastrointestinal symptoms go on to develop respiratory symptoms, while others don’t.
It’s important that older patients or those with underlying medical conditions consult a doctor early in the course of the illness. A treatment called monoclonal antibody therapy needs to be given as soon as possible after symptoms start (ideally within 4 to 7 days of onset.) During the Omicron surge, the most effective treatment has been in short supply,
New antiviral pills also must be used early to be effective, usually within five days of symptom onset. The drugs were only recently approved, but availability should increase by late January.
Days 4 to 6
Some patients never develop more than mild symptoms, or none at all. Others begin to feel terrible, with an ever-present fever, aches, chills, cough and an inability to get comfortable.
Some children and younger adults with mild disease may develop rashes, including itchy red patches, swelling or blistering on the toes or fingers, similar to frostbite. The exact timing isn’t clear, and the symptom may appear early in the infection or after it has passed. That’s what happened to Dr. Schwartz, who developed respiratory symptoms and then blisters on his feet. “It seems that a lot of these individuals, including myself, test negative” on coronavirus swab tests, he said. “I presume it’s a false negative. It could be that what we’re seeing is an immunological phenomenon that occurs after the initial infection is on the mend.”
For patients with mild illness, the worst is over in less than a week, although doctors say it’s a good idea to keep using your pulse oximeter for a few days even if you feel better. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that patients with no symptoms or those without fever for 24 hours whose symptoms are resolving can leave isolation after five days, but should keep wearing a mask around others for five more days.
Days 7 to 8
After a week, some patients who have felt terrible continue to feel terrible or get worse. And some patients might start to feel better briefly then take a turn for the worse.