COVID Symptom Timeline

  • Exposure

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    Exposure
  • Incubation Period

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    The time between exposure and the onset of symptoms

    • Minimum 1 day after exposure (very uncommon, occurred in an immunocompromised patient)
    • Average 5 days after exposure
    • Max 11 days after exposure
    • Accepted max 14 days after exposure – you may have noticed warnings advising up to 14 days, including the official quarantine times. Extending the time frame from the observed 11 days to a presumed 14 days is prudent given the study was conducted on a mere 138 patients, all of the same race and all presumed to have the same strain of the virus. It is wise to presume there are either some strains out there that take a bit longer or some people out there that might fight infection a bit better.
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    Incubation Period

    The time between exposure and the onset of symptoms

    • Minimum 1 day after exposure (very uncommon, occurred in an immunocompromised patient)
    • Average 5 days after exposure
    • Max 11 days after exposure
    • Accepted max 14 days after exposure – you may have noticed warnings advising up to 14 days, including the official quarantine times. Extending the time frame from the observed 11 days to a presumed 14 days is prudent given the study was conducted on a mere 138 patients, all of the same race and all presumed to have the same strain of the virus. It is wise to presume there are either some strains out there that take a bit longer or some people out there that might fight infection a bit better.
  • Symptom Day 1

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    On the first day of symptoms, the majority of patients will have a fever and dry cough, although about 1/3 will also have sputum production. Many will significant fatigue. Body aches, headaches, chills and muscle soreness are less common. Only a small fraction will have GI symptoms or upper respiratory symptoms such as sore throat and sinus congestion.

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    Symptom Day 1

    On the first day of symptoms, the majority of patients will have a fever and dry cough, although about 1/3 will also have sputum production. Many will significant fatigue. Body aches, headaches, chills and muscle soreness are less common. Only a small fraction will have GI symptoms or upper respiratory symptoms such as sore throat and sinus congestion.

  • Symptom Day 5

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    • Patients that are older or have underlying medical conditions start to feel short of breath. 
    • They might start breathing in a rapid and shallow pattern.
    • Some patients will be admitted around this time. 
    • Can produce symptoms of chest tightness or sensation of suffocation. These are warning signs and should prompt a medical evaluation.
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    Symptom Day 5
    • Patients that are older or have underlying medical conditions start to feel short of breath. 
    • They might start breathing in a rapid and shallow pattern.
    • Some patients will be admitted around this time. 
    • Can produce symptoms of chest tightness or sensation of suffocation. These are warning signs and should prompt a medical evaluation.
  • Symptom Day 7

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    • About 85% of patients will see their symptoms start to diminish. 
    • The remaining 15% tend to be admitted to the hospital around this time. 
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    Symptom Day 7
    • About 85% of patients will see their symptoms start to diminish. 
    • The remaining 15% tend to be admitted to the hospital around this time. 
  • Symptom Day 8

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    Patients with severe cases tend to develop ARDS, acute respiratory distress syndrome at this point. 

    • Lungs are severely inflamed, life-threatening
    • Oxygen levels are often extremely low
    • Symptoms include severe shortness of breath, rapid shallow breathing, drowsiness, confusion and feeling faint.
    • According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 15% of cases reach this point – I believe that is an overestimate, more likely around 15% of hospitalized patients reach this point. So if around 15% of patients are hospitalized, and 15% of them develop respiratory failure, then it would be more like 2 – 3%.
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    Symptom Day 8

    Patients with severe cases tend to develop ARDS, acute respiratory distress syndrome at this point. 

    • Lungs are severely inflamed, life-threatening
    • Oxygen levels are often extremely low
    • Symptoms include severe shortness of breath, rapid shallow breathing, drowsiness, confusion and feeling faint.
    • According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 15% of cases reach this point – I believe that is an overestimate, more likely around 15% of hospitalized patients reach this point. So if around 15% of patients are hospitalized, and 15% of them develop respiratory failure, then it would be more like 2 – 3%.
  • Symptom Day 10

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    Patients with breathing problems tend to be transferred to ICU.

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    Symptom Day 10

    Patients with breathing problems tend to be transferred to ICU.

  • Symptom Day 12

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    Fever should end, cough may linger.

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    Symptom Day 12

    Fever should end, cough may linger.

  • Symptom Day 13

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    The shortness of breath tends to improve in those who survive

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    Symptom Day 13

    The shortness of breath tends to improve in those who survive

  • Symptom Day 18

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    For those that do not survive, the average time to death was 18.5 days.

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    Symptom Day 18

    For those that do not survive, the average time to death was 18.5 days.

  • Symptom Day 22

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    The average survivor is discharged on day 22 of the illness, which would be an average 10 day hospitalization.

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    Symptom Day 22

    The average survivor is discharged on day 22 of the illness, which would be an average 10 day hospitalization.

  • Source

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    Clinical Characteristics of 138 Hospitalized Patients with 2019 Novel Coronavirus-Infected Pneumonia in Wuhan, China. JAMA. 2020

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    Source

    Clinical Characteristics of 138 Hospitalized Patients with 2019 Novel Coronavirus-Infected Pneumonia in Wuhan, China. JAMA. 2020