"Outside the hospital I came over a bit weird and nearly passed out. Every pore on my body opened and I was wheelchaired to our room," said COVID-19 survivor David Abel.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on March 23, 2020

The first notification of the coronavirus, later called COVID-19, was in Wuhan, China, on 31 December last year. Since then, the virus has spread into the western part of the globe, the Americas and Australasia.

The death toll from the global coronavirus pandemic has now surpassed 14,600 people worldwide and it has sickened more than 335,000. COVID-19 infections are still continuing to increase across the world on a daily basis.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state the symptoms for COVID-19 as fever, cough and shortness of breath, whereas the UK National Health Service are urging people to stay at home if they have a high temperature (you feel hot to touch on your chest or back).

Those with a new continuous cough, which means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual) should also be weary.

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health state the symptoms as a cough, a high temperature (at least 38°C) and a shortness of breath. United Nations’ World Health Organisation said the clinical signs and symptoms reported in Wuhan were mainly fever, with a few cases having difficulty in breathing, and chest radiographs showing invasive pneumonic infiltrates in both lungs.

Stories from people who have recovered from COVID-19 reveal their own symptoms. Connor Reed, who was teaching in Wuhan, wrote in his diary: “This is no longer just a cold. I ache all over, my head is thumping, my eyes are burning, my throat is constricted.” He added his “bones were aching” and he had a “hacking cough”.

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Then the pneumonia had suddenly gone but he said he ached “as if I’ve been run over by a steamroller”.

“My sinuses are agony, and my eardrums feel ready to pop. I know I shouldn’t but I’m massaging my inner ear with cotton buds, trying to take the pain away.”

Two days later, he reported feeling better.

These symptoms are common.

Painful sinuses

Painful sinuses can occur when you get a fair few strains of a cold or influenza. Sinusitis can leave you feeling awful, both physically and mentally.

Pain, most often paired with a dull pressure, generally occurs when your sinuses become inflamed and swollen. You may feel pain in your forehead, on either side of your nose, in your upper jaws and teeth, or between your eyes.

Painful ears

A buildup of pressure in the ears makes them feel “ready to pop”.

Current estimates of the incubation period – the time between infection and the onset of symptoms – range from one to 14 days. Most infected people show symptoms within five to six days. Infected patients can also be asymptomatic, meaning they do not display any symptoms despite having the virus in their systems.

Because many of the coronavirus’ symptoms are flu-like, the increasing ear pressure is most likely to be caused by clogged up tubes in your ear thanks to the virus inside your system.

Pounding headache

A thumping headache is typical of a bad cold or influenza. It can also be a symptom of tiredness, dehydration and even a lack of iron in your system.

Burning eyes

Burning eyes is normally associated with smog, smoke, dust, mold and even from an allergic reaction to some animals. However, coronavirus has this symptom and is not an external factor.

Tight throat

Patients suffering with COVID-19 experience a mixture of cold and influenza-like symptoms, paired with typical symptoms of a small allergic reaction.

A constricted throat can be due to swelling and inflammation, brought about after lots of coughing, which we know to be a common occurrence among coronavirus sufferers.

A constricted throat can also be caused by an infection, an allergic reaction, and a variety of other conditions.

If you find yourself really struggling to breathe, swallow or find any lumps or bumps you’ve not seen before, you may need to be checked by a doctor immediately.

Aching all over

It’s no secret that having a cold or a bout of flu normally comes with feeling achy. And coronavirus is no different.

Those falling ill with COVID-19 have described aches and pains all over their body, not just as a result of blocked sinuses, ears or nose, but also in their arms, legs and chest.

Lungs that ‘sound like a paper bag’

If when you breathe, your lungs sound almost crackly, then this could be a sign of something more serious than just your average cold or flu.

This sort of noise can often occur if the small air sacs in the lungs fill with fluid, as well as the air you’re breathing in and out.

These air sacs filling with fluid can often happen as a result of pneumonia – which is a condition linked to coronavirus.

If your breath sounds wheezy, this may be down to an inflammation of the bronchial tubes in your lungs.

Mike Saag, 64, an infectious disease doctor in Alabama, developed a cough, like a smoker’s hack. He was bone-tired, his mind foggy. About five days in, the misery intensified. “This is not something anybody wants to go through,” he said. “I implore everyone to stay at home!”

Tiredness

A common symptom of COVID-19 is feeling extremely tired or fatigued. Feeling tired and not being able to sleep due to coughing and difficulty breathing, makes them stressful and extremely uncomfortable.

Jaimuay Sae-ung, 73, was the first Thai national to contract coronavirus in December last year.

Despite having underlying health conditions, including a heart problem, Jaimuay survived the illness after doctors isolated her at a hospital in Thailand for treatment. Her symptoms included a fever and a bad cough, but she developed pneumonia while in quarantine and her family were worried she may not survive.

“I only knew (I had coronavirus) after I came to the hospital,” the mother of seven told Sky News.

“I felt a bit sad, a bit shocked, tired and fatigued and I couldn’t eat.”

Lack of appetite

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Ritchie Torres, 32, a New York City councilman from the Bronx, had nothing more than a “general sickly feeling” to begin with. A bad headache followed. He felt terrible.

Jaimuay also mentioned not being able to eat while suffering with COVID-19. The saying goes that you should feed a cold and starve a fever, so not managing to eat much may help to burn off COVID-19 in the long run.

A fever

For some people, a fever is the only symptom of coronavirus they get.

Tight chest and fits of coughing

Another symptom of coronavirus to be identified, was a tight chest and persistent cough.

Many scientists and health professionals have suggested that the water droplets passed through a cough or sneeze are the main cause of the virus spreading, which is why they have advised the entire population to wash their hands, cough and sneeze into a flexed elbow and use tissues wherever possible.

The Reverend Jadon Hartsuff, 42, an Episcopal priest in Washington, D.C., felt drained after a Sunday service on 23 February. He took a nap. The next day at the gym, his muscles ached. He became fatigued, feverish, slightly dizzy. “I kept telling people I felt spongy,” he recalls. “Like a kitchen sponge.”

Feeling like passing out

Coronavirus

Because coronavirus has such an impact on your body, some patients have felt like they could pass out.

David and Sally Abel, from Oxfordshire, UK, were passengers on board the Diamond Princess and have been treated in hospital after testing positive for the virus while they were confined to their cabin. In a post on his Facebook page he said: “Outside the hospital I came over a bit weird and nearly passed out. Every pore on my body opened and I was wheelchaired to our room.”

Related: How to boost your immune system to fight off coronavirus