Fever is a common symptom of COVID-19. However, not everyone who develops COVID-19 will experience fever. Some other common symptoms include cough, fatigue, and loss of smell or taste.

This information comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fever causes the body temperature to rise above normal levels. This is part of the body’s immune response to infection.

Many infections can cause fever, but if a person has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or above, they should stay at home and get medical advice. This is because the fever could be an early symptom of COVID-19.

This article will discuss fever in COVID-19, some other symptoms of the disease, and what to do.

A doctor using a thermometer to check a man wearing a face mask for signs of COVID-19 and fever.Share on Pinterest
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Fever is a common symptom of COVID-19, but it remains unclear exactly how common. A 2020 review in PLOS One with data from almost 25,000 adults found that fever was the most common symptom. It was present in 78% of cases.

A study in China found that only 44% of people who stayed in the hospital for COVID-19 had fever upon admission. However, just under 89% experienced fever at some point during the hospitalization.

Fever appears to be one of the most common COVID-19 symptoms, but people with this disease do not always experience fever, and some people develop no symptoms at all.

The symptoms of COVID-19 usually develop 2–14 days after exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Different people will experience different symptoms, but some of the most common include:

Less commonly, people report rashes and confusion or delirium. This is particularly the case in older adults.

People may experience different combinations of these symptoms or other symptoms not listed here. They can range from mild to severe.

A study in Frontiers in Public Health suggests that fever may occur before other symptoms. Coughing, muscle aches, and nausea may follow fever during the course of the illness.

However, other people may experience loss of smell or taste first. A study in Nature Communications suggests that these symptoms are early indicators of the disease.

COVID-19 affects people in different ways. Most people experience mild-to-moderate disease. People who fall into this category often recover without hospital treatment within 1–2 weeks.

However, people with more severe symptoms typically take longer to recover. Depending on how COVID-19 has affected them, they may take 6 weeks or longer to feel better.

Doctors may treat COVID-19 cases causing severe symptoms with antiviral or steroid drugs, ventilation to aid breathing, or monoclonal antibody therapy.

Some people who experience mild or severe COVID-19 go on to develop lingering symptoms. People may refer to this as “long COVID,” or post-COVID syndrome.

It is unclear how many people will develop lingering symptoms, but early data from the COVID Symptom Study suggest that around 1 in 20 people experience symptoms for 8 weeks, while 1 in 50 have symptoms for 12 weeks or longer.

Scientists and doctors are still investigating the best treatments for cases that cause long lasting symptoms.

Learn more about the long-term effects of COVID-19 here.

COVID-19 can occur without fever. Some people may only experience cough or shortness of breath, while others develop symptoms that resemble a cold, such as a runny nose and sore throat.

Research suggests that a significant number of people with COVID-19 have no symptoms at all. Estimates vary, but one 2020 review in Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that 40–45% of cases occur without symptoms.

People with symptoms that could indicate the presence of COVID-19 must take precautions to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

The CDC advise:

  • Staying at home: Rest at home and contact a doctor for medical advice. Avoid leaving the house or using public transport. Only attend a medical facility if a healthcare worker advises this.
  • Avoiding contact with others: Where possible, stay in a separate room from others in the household. Use a separate bedroom and bathroom. Do not allow people from other households to visit.
  • Monitoring symptoms: Contact the emergency services if symptoms become severe, causing difficulty breathing, chest pain, or other worrying symptoms. Tell the operator ahead of time that the cause may be COVID-19.
  • Taking precautions to protect others: This includes wearing a mask over the nose and mouth, covering coughs and sneezes with the inside of the elbow, and avoiding sharing household items. Dispose of tissues safely, and wash the hands with soap and water regularly.
  • Cleaning: It is important to clean and sanitize surfaces and objects that people use frequently, such as door handles, light switches, phones, and other devices.

Most people with mild symptoms of COVID-19 will recover at home without hospital treatment. Taking over-the-counter medications may help with specific symptoms. For example, acetaminophen (Tylenol) can relieve pain.

State and local health departments can provide COVID-19 tests to those with symptoms. People without symptoms may also wish for a test, such as someone who has recently come into contact with a person with known COVID-19.

It is generally safe to leave the house again when all of the following apply:

  • 10 days have passed since the first symptoms appeared.
  • The symptoms are improving.
  • A person has not had fever for at least 24 hours.

Contact 911 or the local emergency department if symptoms become severe or if someone is experiencing any of the following:

  • difficulty breathing
  • persistent chest pain
  • new confusion
  • an inability to stay awake
  • blue or white lips or face

Fever is a common symptom of COVID-19. Some research suggests that fever may be an early symptom of COVID-19, though not everyone will develop this. Some people with COVID-19 do not experience any symptoms at all.

If a person experiences fever, it is important to contact a doctor or health organization, as they may require testing. While waiting for advice, they should self-isolate and follow precautions to protect others.