Mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms typically last for up to 2 weeks. The timeline for symptoms can vary, but they usually begin 2–14 days after contact with the virus. A person may experience cold- or flu-like symptoms.

The type, severity, and progression of COVID-19 symptoms will determine how COVID-19 affects a person’s daily living. Some people may experience no symptoms at all, while others will require treatment in a hospital.

Keep reading to learn more about the timeline and progression of COVID-19 symptoms.

Coronavirus data

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of medical review. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub for the most recent information on COVID-19.

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There has been some research into the order that COVID-19 symptoms might develop. For example, a 2020 study in Frontiers in Public Health used statistical models to predict how COVID-19 symptoms might develop.

It is important to remember that symptoms will progress differently depending on the person.

Early symptoms: Week 1

COVID-19 symptoms typically occur 2–14 days after exposure to the virus, most commonly after 5–6 days. Most people will experience mild-to-moderate symptoms during this period.

The first COVID-19 symptom to develop is likely to be fever, which is a temporary increase in body temperature. This differs from influenza, where the first symptom is typically a cough.

Fever is the most common symptom of COVID-19, occurring in around 78% of COVID-19 cases, according to a 2020 review of data from almost 25,000 adults.

Learn more about the early symptoms of COVID-19.

Next symptoms: Week 2

COVID-19 may then cause :

The Frontiers in Public Health study also suggested that COVID-19 could then cause nausea and vomiting, which would develop sooner than it would in similar respiratory infections, such as MERS or SARS.

In severe cases, COVID-19 can require hospitalization. Some people will experience acute respiratory distress syndrome. This is where the lungs fail to provide the body with sufficient oxygen.

In these and other severe cases, doctors may admit people to an intensive care unit around 10 days after symptom onset.

The type and order of symptoms will vary from person to person. For example, some people will experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea before fever or coughing. Others will experience no symptoms at all. Symptoms may be more severe for some people.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), other COVID-19 symptoms could include the following alongside:

Some people will experience severe symptoms, such as:

People who experience these symptoms must seek immediate medical attention.

Read more about COVID-19 symptoms.

There are many variants of SARS-CoV-2 that can cause COVID-19. Each variant is the result of a random mutation of the original virus.

The main variants of concern in the United States include the Omicron, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta variants. These variants spread more quickly than the original virus, which can increase the number of hospitalizations or deaths due to COVID-19.

The variants cause similar COVID-19 symptoms. However, some data suggest that the Delta variant is more likely to cause cold-like symptoms, such as:

Learn about novel coronavirus variants.

In most cases, COVID-19 lasts for a few days or weeks.

However, some symptoms may take longer to go away. Long COVID refers to symptoms that persist weeks or months after the infection.

Most people can be around other people around 10 days after their symptoms first appeared or 10 days after they have a positive test for COVID-19.

People with severe COVID-19 symptoms or weakened immune systems may need to isolate for longer. The CDC recommends up to 20 days of isolation after symptoms first occur in these cases. However, a doctor may recommend a different duration, depending on the case.

Learn more about how long COVID-19 is contagious.

Most people will experience no long-term effects from COVID-19.

However, others may experience long COVID. This is where symptoms persist for several weeks or months.

The duration of time that symptoms must persist to constitute long COVID varies. The CDC states that symptoms lasting 4 or more weeks constitute long COVID.

Long COVID can include any COVID-19 symptoms and can occur in people who experienced mild, moderate, or severe symptoms.

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

Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are respiratory diseases with similar symptoms. However, a 2020 study in Frontiers in Public Health suggests that a cough is more likely to be the first symptom of flu versus COVID-19.

Some symptoms are more common in COVID-19 than flu, such as loss of taste or smell. Both conditions can also cause no symptoms at all.

SARS-CoV-2 can also spread more easily than influenza and causes more serious illness.

Learn more about COVID-19 and the flu.

Mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 may not require immediate medical attention. However, it is critical to contact a medical professional for symptoms that include:

Here are some frequently asked questions about COVID-19.

Is COVID-19 worse on day 5?

Symptoms of COVID-19 typically appear around 5–6 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms, such as a fever, are typically mild or moderate during this time. After one week, a person may develop new symptoms, such as a cough and a sore throat. These may also be mild or moderate, though some people may experience worsening symptoms.

Is COVID-19 still contagious after 7 days?

COVID-19 may still be contagious 7 days after a person first experiences symptoms. A person will typically need to avoid contact with other people for around 10 days, though some people may need to do so for about 20 days.

What helps COVID-19 symptoms go away faster?

COVID-19 typically resolves within 14 days. Getting plenty of rest and drinking enough fluids may help symptoms to clear up faster. Over-the-counter pain relief medication may help a person manage pain.

COVID-19 can cause a range of symptoms for around two weeks. The order of these symptoms will vary from case to case. However, some research suggests fever is most likely to occur first.

Some cases of COVID-19 cause severe symptoms, which typically emerge after around a week. People with these symptoms must seek immediate medical attention.

Coronavirus resources

For more advice on COVID-19 prevention and treatment, visit our coronavirus hub.

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