Is This Coronavirus, or Just Allergies? Symptoms of COVID-19

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A lot of people with coughs or fevers might be stressing out these days because they are worried that they have COVID-19. But with cold and flu season still in full swing, and the spring allergy season starting up (in the Northern Hemisphere anyway), there are plenty of other things out there that could potentially explain these symptoms.

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  • Tags: SciShow,science,Hank,Green,education,learn,cough,fever,COVID-19,coronavirus,allergy season,symptoms,dry cough,difficulty breathing,respiratory infection,fatigue,muscle aches,GI issues,presymptomatic,asymptomatic,pnemonia,acute respiratory distress syndrom,ventilators,losing sense of smell,Is This Coronavirus,or Just Allergies? Symptoms of COVID-19


Thanks to Brilliant for supporting this episode
of SciShow.Go to to learn more.[ INTRO]Hello everyone! We think nothing looks different
right now,but if it does, it’s because we’ve moved
our studio to my home.Because the state of Montana has told everybody
to stay home for now.We’re doing that, because that is what we
can doto make this whole thing better.I’ll show you – I’ll grab my phone right
now.And show you what it looks like from my angle.This is where I sit and do my work!And this is now the SciShow studio.We want to keep you informed, so we are going
to continuebringing you SciShow News. Regular SciShow is going to continue as well,
and we’ll have plentyof videos about weird worms and cool stuff
in outer spaceto keep you occupied.Now these days, a lot of people might be getting
coughs or feversand stressing out because they’re worried
they have COVID-19 —the disease a lot of people are just calling
“corona”or “the coronavirus.”And this is like totally understandable.The main symptoms for COVID-19 can overlap
with thoseof common illnesses like the flu.And, at least in the northern hemisphere,
it’s still cold and flu season— and the spring allergy season is beginning.Meanwhile, it can be hard to even know if
you have COVID-19.Doctors want several kinds of tests to confirm.It also can take multiple tests to know for
surethat you don’t have it.Even if you’re tested and it comes back
negative,some reports suggest that in as many as 15-30%
of cases,that is a false negative — meaning you
have the diseasebut the test didn’t detect it.Which is why doctors may advise some people
who get testedto self-isolate, even if they test negative.But knowing more about the symptoms of COVID-19can give you some clues about what to do nextif you start feeling crummy.First things first: If you think you might
have the coronavirusor want medical advice, you should talk to
an actual doctor.I am not that.If you have acute symptoms, like trouble breathing,pause all YouTube videos and call your doctor
or the emergency room.Still, the available research does tell us
a lotabout what this disease generally looks like.The three main symptoms everyone's talking
about are fever,dry cough, and difficulty breathing.Which makes sense, because this coronavirus
is mainlya respiratory infection.Two major review papers — one in Travel
Medicine and InfectiousDisease, one in the Journal of Medical Virology
— looked atsymptoms across thousands of patients, mainly
in China,where much of our early info is coming from.According to their analyses, close to 90%
of adult patientspresent with a fever, and about 58-72% have
a cough.Big range there, yeah, but this comes from
doing statistical analysis— it means that we’re 95% certain that
the true numberis in between those two numbers.Only the Travel Medicine authors looked at
trouble breathing,and they found that about 46% of patients
had that symptom.Now, the US Centers for Disease Control lists
these as the top 3 symptoms.But according to these reviews, fatigue and
muscle achesare right up there with difficulty breathing,occurring in 29-43% of patients.Kids seem to have much milder symptoms in
general— for example, the review paper from the
Travel Medicine groupfound that only 44% had fever, and just 22%
had a cough.And there’s some evidence that kids may
actually havedifferent symptoms — like more gastrointestinal
issues, for example.Also, it’s important to remember that among
both adults and kids,many cases are presymptomatic — they already
have the virus,but do not yet have symptoms.We still don’t quite know what that means
for how those peoplespread the disease, but it is probably not
good.Likewise, we know that there is at least a
small group of adults,and probably kids, who are asymptomatic, meaningthey have no symptoms at all.In fact, a mathematical analysis published
in mid-March,which looked at early cases in China and how
COVID-19 then spreadaround the world, estimated that up to 86%
of caseswere mild enough to go undocumented.That doesn’t necessarily mean asymptomatic
— it’s just not like“I need to go to the doctor” bad.But the illness, of course, can still become
very severe— especially when the fever, cough, and
trouble breathing comboturns into pneumonia, where the lungs become
inflamedand fill with fluid.By the way, you may keep hearing that older
patientsand those with preexisting conditions are
more at risk,and that is true. But even younger, healthier
patientscan develop pneumonia, which ain’t nice.The two papers found that in 15-33% of confirmed
COVID-19 cases,the pneumonia can progress to acute respiratory
distress syndrome,where fluid buildup leads to a severe shortness
of breaththat can be fatal.That’s why having enough ventilators, which
help people breathe,is so important.None of these symptoms, of course, are surprising;there’s a good chance you’ve heard all
of this before.But there are the rarer symptoms, too.The paper in Travel and Infectious Disease
didn’t specify numbersfor these, but the other group found that
about 11% of patientshad a sore throat, 8% had a headache, and
6% had diarrhea.This is where you start to see how research
on somethingas new as this coronavirus can be tricky.Both of the review papers we’ve been talking
aboutonly looked at studies released through the
end of February.But some of the more recent research seems
to disagreeabout how common digestive symptoms are.In a study that followed patients through
March 18,researchers in China found that of 204 hospitalized
patients,half had digestive symptoms — loss of appetite,
diarrhea, vomiting,or stomach pain.And even if you don’t count loss of appetite
as a digestive symptom,19% of the patients still had GI issues.The researchers note that this study has some
limitations— for example, it doesn’t have a huge
sample size.But it’s a sign that digestive symptoms
may be more commonthan we thought based on earlier studies.Again, all of the symptoms of COVID-19 can
be caused byplenty of other infections, from flu to a
stomach virusto the common cold.And in many places that don’t have big outbreaks,it is still much more likely for people experiencing
symptomsto be sick with something other than COVID-19.Even in New York State, which has one of the
largest outbreaksin the world as of this recording, about 2/3
of testswere coming back negative as recently as last
Sunday.It’s also worth noting that the coronavirus
doesn’t usuallycome with itchy, watery eyes, and a runny
nose or sneezing are rare.So those symptoms — especially without a
fever —might point to allergies or a cold instead.Then again, there’s no reason someone couldn’t
have allergiesor a cold and also have coronavirus.So if you’ve got a runny nose, that doesn’t
mean that you canrun out and celebrate that you don’t have
COVID.And there is one weird symptom that might
be a sign it’s COVID-19:it’s losing your sense of smell.As of when we’re filming this, which is
March 31st,this is still very much an emerging possibility,not a for sure thing yet.But anecdotal reports started coming out a
few weeks ago,and once people were paying attention to it,researchers started finding more evidence
of it as a symptom.An initial analysis, published on March 26
by researchers in Germany,cited reports that up to two thirds of patientshad lost their sense of smell.And a group of British researchers report
that in South Korea,30% of otherwise mild cases had a loss of
smell as their main symptom.The World Health Organization, or WHO, says
it’s looking into this link,but that there’s not enough evidence yet
to saythe connection is really there.Because even this isn’t a for sure sign
of coronavirus—other respiratory infections can also affect
your sense of smell.What’s more, there’s the possibility of
this bias where peoplestart reporting symptoms that they’ve heard about
—so the media or social media picks up on the
smell thing,and then more people start to notice it and
report it.Still, researchers are starting to recommend
that peoplewho lose their sense of smell should be told
to self-isolatefor a week or two.They think it might help reduce the number
of mild caseswalking around and spreading the disease.All in all, it’s tricky to diagnose people
withoutactually testing them for COVID-19.Because even with testing capability ramping
up in many countries,there are still limitations — like having
enough peopleto administer and process those tests.That’s why the WHO has two main sets of
recommendations.The first is for people who have severe symptoms,like a high fever, bad cough, or difficulty
breathing.In those cases, those people should seek medical
attention.The other recommendations are for people who
are otherwise healthybut have mild symptoms that could be COVID-19.In those cases, the WHO recommends people
self-isolateand contact their doctor or a COVID-19 hotlinefor advice about getting tested.Doctors also say you can take medicines like
acetaminophenor ibuprofen to help with symptoms.Those aren’t going to help the course of
the disease,but they will help you feel better temporarily.There was news that went viral recently about
the French Ministryof Health saying ibuprofen or similar medicationscould make the illness worse, but that was
speculationbased on an unproven theory about how infections
work.It was speculation published in a reputable
journal,but in science we actually need evidence,
and so far there isn’t any.Some people might have issues with ibuprofen,
and if that’s you,you probably already know to avoid it.And none of that is specific to COVID-19.So far, the WHO hasn’t recommended against
taking ibuprofen.They also have some recommendations on how.
to carefor someone with this disease, if hospitalization
isn’t an option.There’s a link to that in the video description.It includes vigilant handwashing and trying
to maintainat least a one-meter distance between the
patientand the other members of the household.This is a scary time, but if you have seasonal
allergies,you are probably pretty familiar with how
they affect you— so your old reliable allergy symptoms
are nothing to panic over.If you feel like your symptoms are more unusual,stay in and call your doctor for advice.This is a good opportunity to recognize that
we oftensort of colloquially say like this particular
disease startswith this symptom, then it progresses this
way -but this is different for different people.So there’s no one symptom or one disease
progressionthat tells you for sure that you have COVID-19.Especially because many people have it and
do not have symptoms yet,or may not ever have symptoms.So limiting contact with others, whether we
are symptomatic or not,is still the best thing we can do for our
societyand for the people on the front lines of this
fight.But researchers are working hard to change
that.We’ll be keeping an eye out, and you can
expect upcoming SciShow Newsepisodes to bring you more info in the coming
weeks.Until then, stay safe, and thanks for watching.If you, like me, might need things to take
your mind off current events,Why not try Brilliant’s Daily Challenges?They’re a fun, bite-sized way to master
new STEM concepts by applying them.You can stop by every day for a new problem
to solve,relating to anything from statistics to electricityto computer science.And if you like the problem and want to learn
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SciShow — so thanks.[ OUTRO]

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