24 Mar 2020

Covid-19 symptoms: What they are and how they make you feel

3:46 pm on 24 March 2020

If you're in lockdown - or preparing for it - we've put together details of the Covid-19 coronavirus symptoms in one place so you know what to look out for.

Close up portrait elderly 60s woman looking unhealthy use tissue blowing runny nose suffers from grippe warms herself with plaid, female feels upset crying having personal or health problems concept

The Covid-19 coronavirus can cause a fever, a cough and shortness of breath. Photo: 123rf

The government's dedicated Covid-19 website has details on the symptoms. They're short:

  • A fever of at least 38 degrees Celsius
  • A cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

Australia's government lists the symptoms as:

  • Fever
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Difficulty breath, which may develop in to pneumonia
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue

Meanwhile, the BBC has this to say:

Mild disease is all most people will experience.

Covid-19 is a mild infection for eight out of 10 people who get it and the core symptoms are a fever and a cough.

Body aches, sore throat and a headache are all possible, but not guaranteed.

The fever, and generally feeling grotty, is a result of your immune system responding to the infection. It has recognised the virus as a hostile invader and signals to the rest of the body something is wrong by releasing chemicals called cytokines.

These rally the immune system, but also cause the body aches, pain and fever.

See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

The coronavirus cough is initially a dry one (you're not bringing stuff up) and this is probably down to irritation of cells as they become infected by the virus.

Some people will eventually start coughing up sputum - a thick mucus containing dead lung cells killed by the virus.

These symptoms are treated with bed rest, plenty of fluids and paracetamol. You won't need specialist hospital care.

This stage lasts about a week - at which point most recover because their immune system has fought off the virus.

However, some will develop a more serious form of Covid-19.

This is the best we understand at the moment about this stage, however, there are studies emerging that suggest the disease can cause more cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose too.

Earlier in the disease outbreak, science and environment writer Dave Hansford explained the virus for RNZ: "Coronaviruses generally cause fever, coughing and shortness of breath, and can progress in elderly and immune-compromised people into pneumonia, respiratory failure and occasionally, kidney failure.

"RNA viruses only have a single strand of genetic material (unlike us, which have two), which means they can mutate and recombine rapidly, regularly producing new strains that our immune systems don't remember or recognise. This is why we keep getting colds each year."

- RNZ with BBC

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus: