COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that can induce many other severe symptoms. Early signs of the disease include the onset of fever, coughs and shortness of breath, which may present themselves as early as 2 days, or within 14 days, after exposure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks fever as the most common symptom of COVID-19. However, there are many other symptoms that might occur in people who have contracted this disease. According to a study conducted by researchers at Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston, more than half of a sample of patients treated with COVID-19 suffered from a severe cough rather than fever – a trend which held true across all age groups studied. Other commonly reported symptoms included: shortness of breath (11% – 40%) and headache or muscle aches (10%-22%). Despite the prevalence of coughing, fever remains as a key indicator for diagnosis because it can lead doctors to suspecting an underlying infection, such as elevated white blood cell count, or an increase in inflammation.
COVID-19 can affect the body in different ways, depending on how it is contracted. COVID-19 causes milder symptoms for most people, but can cause severe or even fatal illness for some. Out of 17,000 reported cases from China, 81% were found to be only mildly affected by the virus while a small percentage experienced more serious side effects such as confusion, headaches, nausea and diarrhea – which could lead to dehydration if not treated quickly.
It was found that severity of the illness largely depended upon age: older adults appear to be at a higher risk than younger individuals. However, regardless of age, anyone who has a chronic medical condition may also experience more severe infection rates when exposed to the virus.
Being a respiratory virus, Covid-19 leads some individuals to experience minor respiratory symptoms, while others develop non-life threatening pneumonia. However, there has been a subset of individuals who have developed severe lung damage, or a condition known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). These individuals are unable to breathe adequate amounts of oxygen, due to the strain that the virus implements upon the functioning of the lungs. Poor ventilation causes fluid buildup that restricts airflow through airways into alveoli (tiny sac-like structures inside the lungs) where gas exchange occurs near surrounding blood vessels that filter the oxygen.
High accumulations of fluid can begin to leak from small blood vessels in the lungs. The leaked fluids collect between the alveoli and it becomes difficult for the respiratory system to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream. One recent study found that people experiencing COVID-19 started having difficulty breathing 5 days after presenting symptoms. By the time ARDS developed, 8 days later, most patients were not able to breathe on their own and needed supplemental oxygen and mechanical ventilation in order to survive.
Research has found that there are three factors that affect the lung damage risk in COVID-19 infections and how likely the person is to recover and regain lung function: disease severity, health conditions and treatment.
If an individual is at risk for contracting the virus, there are things he or she can do to increase the chances of less severe lung damage; be sure that all chronic health conditions are managed as well they can be, this is especially relevant for individuals with diabetes or heart disease. Complications can also be avoided through adequate hydration and nutrition. Sufficient hydration ensures healthy volumes of blood and moist mucus membranes for the respiratory system, which aid in optimal performance for resistance of infection and against tissues damage.