Public Health

How Does It Feel To Have Coronavirus COVID-19?

Khang T. Vuong24 Nov 2020

What does it feel like to have COVID-19?

There is no shortage of articles about symptoms of coronavirus COVID-19. It is still hard, however, for most people to imagine what it feels like to have "shortness of breath" unless you have experienced it yourself.

In this article, we will take you through four stories of those who have experienced or suspected to have the coronavirus COVID-19, and how it feels like to live through an episode called "the worst flu of your life". Note that you may get coronavirus without developing symptoms. If you test positive or had close contact with someone who was positive, you should quarantine immediately, regardless of whether you have symptoms. 


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Real Stories From Four Recovered Americans- What Does It Feel Like to Have COVID?

Sneeze, cough, fever, shortness of breath, fear of being hospitalized - there is so much anxiety around the coronavirus outbreak that you too may be the next infected person.

While individuals over the age of 60 are particularly more vulnerable to the virus, the majority of younger people will experience mild and non-life-threatening symptoms like cough or sneeze - according to John Hopkins and the CDC.

Four people below survived the Coronavirus COVID-19, reliving their experience of dealing with the virus. With this knowledge in hand, we can better anticipate and manage potential symptoms (like a cough or difficulty breathing), know when to seek medical attention, and prepare for what life will be like if we have the coronavirus.


Lisa Merck - "It was nothing like I expected"

March 13, 2020 - Lisa Merck, 50, speaking out from self-isolation in Crested Butte, Colorado. She recently returned from a three-week trip to Hawaii. Lisa had a few sniffles during her travels, but when she returned home, she started experiencing some strong muscle aches.

She said it was like someone was stabbing me with an ice pick. Lisa started feeling nauseous and then came down with a fever. Shortness of breath and fatigue appeared and she later received a positive test result for coronavirus. From her experience, the muscle aches were the worst, but the shortness of breath and exhaustion were also intense.


Hillary Dianne - "This is how it went down for me"

On March 11, Hillary Diane was discharged from the ER after her experience with suspected coronavirus went viral on Facebook.

Hillary lives in Massachusetts down the street from the Biogen conference site where over 70 people were infected and also traveled to NYC for business the week before.

She reportedly did not meet the CDC guidelines for having come in direct contact with someone who has confirmed tested positive, the hospital was not able to provide the test for COVID-19, due to a shortage in capacity at the MA Department of Public Health.

Hillary Diane came into close contact with a confirmed case of Coronavirus but was discharged home from the ER to self-quarantine

"This is how it went down for me:

  • Monday 3/9: slight tickle in my throat, and but thought nothing of it.
  • Tuesday 3/10: cough and shortness of breath started, worsened noticeably throughout the day. Body aches and general malaise started as well. Barely slept overnight due to coughing.
  • Wednesday 3/11: cough and shortness of breath are persistent, and here we are. I also do not have a fever but was told that high fever doesn't present in all cases - Covid-19 manifests differently depending on age, general health, and other existing conditions."

This is going to be very disruptive to both my personal and professional life. But, my concern around this whole situation - beyond the scope of my personal experience - is the well-being of those who are more vulnerable."

Hillary Dianne blogging from Massachusetts General Hospital


Elizabeth Scheider - “If your symptoms aren't life-threatening, simply stay at home, drink lots of water, get a lot of rest and check out the shows you want to binge-watch.”

Elizabeth Schneider, a 37-year-old from Seattle, Washington first began experiencing flu-like symptoms on February 25, and they occurred three days after she attended a party with someone carrying the Coronavirus.

She initially felt some fatigue, like a bad cold, followed by a headache, fever, and body aches. Thinking that a nap would relieve some of her symptoms, Elizabeth woke up with a body temperature of 103 degrees.

She felt the chills and started shivering. She was up to date with her flu shot so Elizabeth began to suspect she had something more serious after reading several posts on social media.

To cope, she took some over-the-counter flu medication and rested in her home. Being in the scientific community, Elizabeth enrolled herself in a research program called the Seattle Flu Study and was mailed a nasal swab kit by the researchers, which she mailed back. And the wait began...

On March 7, Elizabeth got a positive result for COVID-19. Though surprised, she felt a sense of relief - “I was a little bit pleasantly surprised because I thought it was a little bit cool,” she told the AFP, adding that she found it interesting from a “scientific perspective."


Carl Goldman - “When we got on the plane, I fell asleep next to my wife. Two hours later, I woke up with a 103-plus fever.”

Carl Goldman, 67-years-old, was on the infamous Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan and left the ship to fly back to the United States. More than 700 people were diagnosed with Coronavirus. Carl and his wife left before the quarantine was lifted. Little did he know there was a birthday surprise waiting for him.

On his way back, Carl woke up from a nap with a 103-degree fever. While his fever broke by the time he reached America, he started experiencing massive body fatigue.

“Feeling like it had been punched a few times,"  He was admitted to a biocontainment center in Omaha, Nebraska, where he has just had a lingering dry cough.

While in isolation, Carl celebrated his 67th birthday. The hospital staff delivered him a surprise birthday cake sang “Happy Birthday” through the two-way monitors. “It's just kind of funny,” Carl said. “Who would've thought my 67th birthday would've been in the biocontainment center in Omaha?”

Carl fills his hours keeping up with his blog, staying on top of work for the radio station, and FaceTiming with his wife, who was eventually released and is now back in California.

Carl Goldman while in biocontainment in Omaha, Nebraska


Having difficulty breathing is a signature symptom of the Coronavirus COVID-19

The signature symptom of Coronavirus COVID-19 is shortness of breath - which could be indicative of pneumonia, especially in individuals with existing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and immunocompromised (weak immune system) conditions.

As you can see, some underlying symptoms can signal a coronavirus diagnosis. Most notably, these are aches and pains, chills, cough, and nausea. But as we saw with Hillary Diane's story, some symptoms (like fever) do not necessarily need to be present for a positive diagnosis.


The Best Way To Fight Coronavirus Is Stopping It From Spreading

Ultimately, the coronavirus is an extremely concerning disease. There have already been thousands of fatalities around the world.

At this time, it is wise to practice social distancing, continuously wash your hands, and keep yourself from touching your face. Vigilance and caution is the name of the game here, so make sure you are doing your part to keep yourself (and your loved ones) safe.

  • Handwashing with soap could be more effective than you think: as the Coronavirus is bounded by a lipid (fat) envelope, washing for at least 20 seconds with soap could disrupt the virus membrane and denature it. Are you washing your hands properly? Click here to see
  • Make sure your room gets good sunlight, airflow, and humidity: the Coronavirus COVID-19 could live on surfaces for 2-3 days. Ultraviolet light can be a really powerful disinfectant and we get a lot of UVA light from the sun - says Daniel Kuritzkes an infectious disease expert at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dry air also causes airborne which further spreads the virus, having a moderate level of humidity is key in preventing contamination.
  • Practice social distancing: a simulation ran by the Washington Post showed social distancing has the highest impact to "flatten the curve", reducing the number of infected people, compared to forced quarantine.


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If you are experiencing an onset of suspected COVID-19, call your local Department of Health, 911, or call your doctor immediately.

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