Researchers at King’s College in London say symptoms developed within the first week of a COVID-19 infection can determine the severity of the infection and the likelihood a patient will require hospitalization. According to Dr. Claire Steves of King’s College:
“If you can predict who these people are at day five, you have time to give them support and early interventions … simple care that could be given at home, preventing hospitalizations and saving lives.”
1,600 patients in the U.S. and U.K. were studied between March and April 2020 and placed in six clusters or categories, three clusters of less severe symptoms and three clusters defined as “severe” symptoms. All the patients reported headaches, followed by a decreasing sense of smell. What happened after the first few days of symptoms is what set the groups apart.
Headaches faded for groups 1-4. Groups 5-6 (the two more severe groups) developed confusion after the first five days. Groups 4-6 began to experience fatigue on day three or four. Only patients in group 6 experienced abdominal pain, an unusual finding because the symptom is only present in the most severe cases.
Nearly half the patients in group 6 required hospitalization. Only 16% of group 1 patients required hospitalization.
Here are the symptoms, in order of severity, with their key distinctions highlighted:
- (‘flu-like’ with no fever): Headache, loss of smell, muscle pains, cough, sore throat, chest pain, no fever.
- (‘flu-like’ with fever): Headache, loss of smell, cough, sore throat, hoarseness, fever, loss of appetite.
- (gastrointestinal): Headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, diarrhea, sore throat, chest pain, no cough.
- (severe level one, fatigue): Headache, loss of smell, cough, fever, hoarseness, chest pain, fatigue.
- (severe level two, confusion): Headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, cough, fever, hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, confusion, muscle pain.
- (severe level three, abdominal and respiratory): Headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, cough, fever, hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, confusion, muscle pain, shortness of breath, abdominal pain.