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25 Subtle Signs You've Caught Coronavirus

Determine if it's just a cold—or something worse.

With so much focus on the coronavirus, it's easy to psych yourself out and think you're infected when you feel the slightest headache coming on. Compare these subtle signs that you may have coronavirus to the symptoms you're experiencing. Note: You don't have to have all of these symptoms to be infected with coronavirus; please check with your medical provider to be sure. And if you want to be extra careful, click here for the longer, fuller list of the Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.


You Feel Extremely Tired

Tired young African man using laptop while sitting at the table on a sunny morning.Concept of people working hard home

Like many other viruses, COVID-19 may completely zap your energy. If you're feeling unusually tired, it may be a subtle sign that you've contracted the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 44% to 70% of patients with coronavirus reported fatigue as a common symptom they experienced when they contracted the virus. If you simply stayed up late to binge watch your favorite show or you didn't sleep well because you drank too much whiskey, your fatigue is explainable. If you can't explain your full-body fatigue, cross-check it with the following symptoms of COVID-19.


You Have a Dry Cough

man face closeup with a sore throat, sick due to a virus, tired and overwhelmed

The CDC reports a dry cough as a common symptom of coronavirus and 59% to 82% of patients diagnosed with the virus felt it coming on with a dry cough. According to Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H. from the Johns Hopkins Health System, the virus "travels to the back of your nasal passages and to the mucous membranes in the back of your throat." This is what causes an instant dry cough as soon as you're infected with the virus. Keep in mind, allergies may also cause a dry cough, so don't jump to conclusions that you've been infected if this is the only symptom you experience. 


You Can't Catch Your Breath

Curly woman feeling bad and suffering from strong cough while having flu

About 31% to 40% of diagnosed coronavirus patients experienced a shortness of breath. According to the Mayo Clinic, a shortness of breath can be described as an "intense tightening in the chest, air hunger, difficulty breathing, breathlessness, or a feeling of suffocation." You may experience a shortness of breath when you're exercising intensely or if you're experiencing anxiety or a panic attack. However, if you can't catch your breath and there's no reason for it, you may have been infected with coronavirus.


You Have a Fever

Woman being sick having flu lying on sofa looking at temperature on thermometer.

A fever is the most common symptom for those diagnosed with coronavirus. 83% to 99% of COVID-19 patients report experiencing a fever. According to Harvard Medical School, you have a fever if your body temperature is 100.4° Fahrenheit or higher. You may also experience "chills, sweating, muscle aches, nausea, and weakness." Your body develops a fever when it's working hard to fight off an infection or inflammation. Your fever may be a sign that you have the flu or it may be a symptom of COVID-19. Call your doctor if you develop a fever so you can potentially get tested for the virus.


You Lose Your Sense of Smell

Woman Trying to Sense Smell of a Lemon

If you couldn't smell your toast burning or coffee brewing this morning, it may be cause for concern. One of the most subtle symptoms associated with coronavirus is a loss of your sense of smell, also referred to as anosmia. This symptom was discovered by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery when doctors found that many who tested positive for the virus had lost their ability to smell. "In South Korea, where testing has been more widespread, 30% of patients testing positive have had anosmia as their major presenting symptom in otherwise mild cases."


You Get Pink Eye

Closeup of irritated red bloodshot eye

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, may also be a sign of a coronavirus infection, although it's rare. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 1% to 3% of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 also had viral pink eye. 


Stomach Issues

Woman touching stomach painful suffering from stomachache causes of menstruation period, gastric ulcer, appendicitis or gastrointestinal system disease

Another subtle symptom that was common among coronavirus patients is nausea or diarrhea. A study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology analyzed the symptoms of over 200 people who were diagnosed with COVID-19. About half of these patients claimed to experience stomach issues, including either diarrhea, nausea, or both. 


You Lost Your Sense of Taste

female cook standing at the hob in her apron tasting her food in the saucepan with a grimace as she finds it distasteful and unpalatable

If you're having trouble tasting your food, it may also be a sign of a respiratory or viral infection such as coronavirus. A loss in your sense of taste, called dysgeusia, is related to losing your sense of smell, which is also a newly diagnosed symptom of the virus. While it's not a primary symptom of coronavirus, Dr. Rachel Kaye, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, claims many patients she saw who later tested positive for coronavirus were complaining that "everything tastes like cardboard." 


You Have a Runny Nose

Man blowing his nose in the cold weather

Generally, sinus congestion or a runny nose are signs you're dealing with allergies, a common cold, or a sinus infection. A runny nose is generally not a symptom of coronavirus in adults. However, this mild symptom may be more common in children infected with the virus. According to the CDC, "Children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms. Reported symptoms in children include cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough."


You Have Body Aches

woman suffer back pain cramp

Body aches and muscle soreness commonly accompany a fever. If you know you have a fever, it's no surprise that you're also feeling some muscle weakness. According to the World Health Organization, about 15% of patients diagnosed with coronavirus experienced body aches or joint pain. Your body aches could be a sign that you're dealing with another illness, such as the flu, or that you've been infected with the virus. If it's accompanied by other symptoms, such as a fever and dry cough, contact your doctor.


You Feel Like You Have the Flu

young woman sitting on a couch having a strong headache

Overall, coronavirus symptoms are similar to what you'd experience if you caught the flu. According to Dr. Jake Duetsch, founder and clinical director at Cure Urgent Care, "In terms of differentiating between flu and COVID-19, it can be almost impossible to distinguish. Fevers, body aches, coughing, sneezing could all be equally attributed to them both, so it really means that if there's a concern for flu, there's a concern for COVID-19." 


You Have a Sore Throat

portrait of woman having sore throat problem

Sore throats are very common with any respiratory infections. Although unpleasant, they usually settle as the infection settles. Most sore throats don't need any treatment. If your sore throat is especially bad, do ask a doctor to check it out in case you have tonsillitis for example.

RELATED: Everything Dr. Fauci Has Said About Coronavirus


You Have Diarrhea

woman hand flush toilet after using

Around half of all people infected with COVID-19 have digestive symptoms; 18% present with diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain. Usually, this is just up to three loose stools per day. 


You Suffer Deep Vein Thrombosis

Ankle pain, painful point. Unhappy woman suffering from pain in leg at home

COVID patients around the world are suffering from a condition known as deep vein thrombosis. "Blood clots can form in the veins deep in the limbs, a condition called deep vein thrombosis or DVT," explains the American Heart Association about the condition usually impacting the deep veins of the legs. "A blood clot in a deep vein can break off and travel through the bloodstream. If the clot travels to the lungs and blocks blood flow, the condition is called pulmonary embolism."


You Notice Unusual Swelling or Numbness

Acute pain in a women wrist

Blood clotting is dangerous mostly due to the simple fact that it can cut off the blood flow in your body. Some patients, including Broadway actor Nick Cordero, are forced to undergo amputation as a result of "thrombotic events." One recent study published in Thrombosis Research found that 31 percent of 184 patients suffered thrombotic complications. One of the first signs you are experiencing blood clots is if your limbs or fingers start feeling any pain, numbness, or experience any swelling.  


Or, Strange Rashes or Discoloration

Woman scratching arm indoors

Dr. Alisa Femia, director of inpatient dermatology and a specialist in autoimmune connective tissue disease at NYU Langone, is just one of the many physicians who have reported skin manifestations—including strange rashes and discoloration—amongst coronavirus patients. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology is keeping a symptom registry in order to record, research, and hopefully be able to explain why the virus manifests itself in the skin. Dr. Femia recently noted to Time that some preliminary research implies blood-flow issues may be behind these bizarre skin conditions. 



doctor, the podiatrist examines the foot

Some younger coronavirus patients have reported swollen, discolored lesions on their toes, a condition medical experts have dubbed "COVID toes." Experts believe that the inflammatory condition is a result of blood clots. "It's possible that this is a skin reaction or caused by a small clog or micro clots in the blood vessels found in the toes," Cleveland Clinic pulmonologist Dr. Humberto Choi explained in a blog post on the medical center's website


You Have a Throbbing Headache

woman lying on sofa having fever

A headache is one of the official COVID-19 symptoms listed by the CDC, along with fever and chills, a dry cough, shortness of breath and others. Broadway actor Danny Burstein suffered coronavirus and wrote about the trauma: "My friend described the headaches like a hammer inside his head that was trying to chip its way out. That's an understatement."


You Have Dizziness

At least four percent of COVID-19 patients studied by the University of Cincinnati had dizziness. This may be caused by lower levels of oxygen reaching your brain.


You Have Altered Mental Status

Mature Woman Comforting Man With Depression At Home

If you experience "a change in intellectual, emotional, psychological, and personality functioning, typically accompanied by behavioral changes," as defined by ACP Hospitalist, you may have "encephalopathy," a catch-all term for a disease that affects the brain. One real-life example: A COVID-19 patient, a female airline worker, reported the New York Times, "was confused, and complained of a headache; she could tell the physicians her name but little else, and became less responsive over time. Brain scans showed abnormal swelling and inflammation in several regions, with smaller areas where some cells had died."


Cold Sweat

Man with hyperhidrosis sweating very badly under armpit in blue shirt because of hot weather

When your heart is having trouble working, it takes more effort for it to pump blood. You'll also feel anxious. Hence the increased sweat.


A Fluttering in Your Chest

Woman touching breast and having chest pain after long hours work on computer

This can be a sign of an irregular heartbeat—as can a racing heartbeat or a slow heartbeat, along with chest pain or shortness of breath. Not to mention, "Some of the medications utilized to treat COVID-19"—like hydroxychloroquine—"also have potential cardiac complications" related to your heartbeat, says the new research.


Swelling of the Leg

Mature athletic man getting out of breath while feeling pain during morning run in nature.

One sign of a blood clot is swelling in the leg—but usually not both legs.


Pain in Your Leg

Woman holding leg in pain

With a blood clot, "the pain often starts in your calf and can feel like cramping or soreness," says the Mayo Clinic.



African-american man suffering from stomach ache, lying on sofa at home

Indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain are symptoms of COVID-19, but also of a heart attack.


One Final Note from the Doctor

Dark purplish lips color in congenital cyanotic heart disease girl patient.

Dr. Deborah Lee, who is a medical writer at Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, warns: "Look out for these emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face."

*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you—and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Kelly Hernandez
Kelly Hernandez is a health and wellness writer and certified personal trainer. Read more about Kelly