How long until I know if I am really sick (COVID-19 edition)
March 24, 2020 5:25 PM   Subscribe

I woke up with a slight cough and mild sore throat. One of my housemates has had a mild dry cough for a couple of days. If this is COVID-19, how soon would I expect to find out if I have a serious case?

I know that people can be asymptomatic for 5- 14 days before developing symptoms. My question is how quickly do mild symptoms turn into sick enough need to stay in bed (if not worse). I'm afraid to google this beyond the CDC because I really, really need to not be reading about people ending up on ventilators right now.

Since I am over 60 and my housemate has health issues, it seems less likely that either of us would just have the minimal version of the coronavirus. This leaves me a sense of dread about when the other shoe will drop.

Note that we are already taking precautions as if infectious so no lecture us about that part.
posted by metahawk to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
a local ER physician who did a talk for my community told us that the typical scenario for those patients who do get really ill, is that it gets worse for ten days from initial symptoms.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:45 PM on March 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

Just watched something where they were talking about the "second week crash". That's when you take a turn and need oxygen and should be in a hospital. So look out for that. And good luck!
posted by clone boulevard at 5:54 PM on March 24, 2020

Under the assumption you have it: More timeline info and measures you can take starting now to reduce severity here:

This 2017 meta-analysis concluded Vitamin D supplementation was safe and it protected against acute respiratory tract infection overall.

posted by SaltySalticid at 5:55 PM on March 24, 2020 [14 favorites]

Even people your age who have health problems often do have the minimal version. It might make you feel better to read about some of the mild cases on the Diamond Princess who were in your age range; look up Jerri Jorgensen and Carl Goldman.

But yes, if things get bad, it tends to happen around 7-10 days after initial symptoms. You might consider ordering a pulse oximeter; you can get one for $20 or so and they're an easy way to see whether your blood oxygen levels are in good shape, and you can get one delivered from CVS or Walgreens or other drugstores.
posted by waffleriot at 6:03 PM on March 24, 2020 [7 favorites]

Take your temperature. I'm wary of megadosing, but taking Vit. D is pretty safe, if you can, without exposing others to your possible infection. Stay home. If you must go out, wear some kind of mask, even a bandana, but don't go out.
posted by theora55 at 6:04 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was also tempted to get an oximeter because I'm feeling anxious, but when my (very high risk) mother asked her doctor about this, she was advised that if she needed medical attention, she would definitely know without the oximeter. Best of luck. I have a mild cough now too and I'm really hoping it's not COVID. In terms of timing, the article linked above suggests that it could possibly take longer if it's going to get worse: "In a typical case the disease begins mild, and after several weeks suddenly progresses to become severe." I'm not sure that's correct, as I've seen shorter timelines elsewhere.
posted by pinochiette at 6:44 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "In a typical case the disease begins mild, and after several weeks suddenly progresses to become severe."

The rest of the article seems fine - but with respect to that sentence: globally the pool of people who we can confirm have had the disease for "several weeks" is very small. If a study is making that claim then with anything like reliability, then they are probably using data from the Diamond Princess. That is useful because all passengers were tested - but also not typical of the general population - because many passengers were elderly.

I think there is some evidence that people who develop pneumonia from covid-19 can have symptoms which take considerably longer to resolve (see interview in Business Insider sub-link from below). But that is not at all the same as somebody who gets the disease only mildly. At present, I don't think we actually understand much about the prevalence of course of mild infections: everybody has, understandably, been focussing on those with more serious cases. To have a full understanding we will need serological tests that can determine who else has had the virus. There is some grounds for optimism in this respect - Oxford University epidemiologists have published a model indicating that half the UK may have already been infected with the virus - with most experiencing mild cases only.

Some data reported here which says the normal course is:
DAY -5: Typical moment of infection.
DAY 1: Initial symptoms
DAY 5: If a patient is going to have difficulty breathing then this becomes noticeable at that point.
DAY 7: If a patient is going to be admitted to hospital then it happens here.
DAY 8: If patients are going to develop acute respiratory it will happen today.
DAY 10: If patients are going to be admitted to ICU then it will happen at this point.
DAY17: Surviving patients are normally discharged from hospital at this point
posted by rongorongo at 12:23 AM on March 25, 2020 [21 favorites]

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