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When you suspect that you have COVID-19 disease

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This page provides advice for people with acute respiratory tract infections. You will also find out how to distinguish COVID-19 from allergies.

This page provides advice for people with acute respiratory tract infections. You will also find out how to distinguish COVID-19 from allergies.


The most common symptoms for COVID-19 are a new cough and / or fever. Later in the course of the disease, some people develop breathing difficulties. The symptoms of COVID-19 overlap with symptoms of other respiratory tract infections, such as colds and influenza, especially with mild illness. The table below can help you to distinguish COVID-19 from other respiratory tract infections and from allergy.

Table 1. Typical symptoms of COVID-19, colds and allergies.

 

Symptoms

Acute respiratory tract infections

Allergies

COVID-19

Colds

Influenza

Fever

Main symptom*

Rare

Common

Rare

Cough

Main symptom*

Common

Common

Sometimes

Breathing difficulties

Main symptom*

No

Rare

Sometimes

Headache

Common

Sometimes

Common

Sometimes

Lethargy

Common

Sometimes

Common

Sometimes

Loss of sense of smell and/or taste

Common

Sometimes

Sometimes

Sometimes

Muscle ache

Common

Sometimes

Common

Rare

Sore throat

Sometimes (common among children)

Common

Common

Rare (but itching can be present)

Runny or blocked nose

Sometimes

Common

Sometimes

Common

Sneezing

Rare

Common

Rare

Common

* The main symptoms are defined based on WHO's criteria for suspected COVID-19

For some people, the disease can also cause a wide range of other symptoms such as nausea / vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, rashes and changes such as confusion and dizziness.

Symptoms among the elderly and children

The elderly often have a more severe course of COVID-19 disease than younger people, and they often display more unusual symptoms. Among the elderly, deterioration of their general condition or functional level may be the only symptom present. In some cases, the disease may begin with confusion and this could prevent someone from contacting a doctor or reporting their symptoms reliably. Therefore, it is important that older patients are assessed by people who know the patient well so that changes can be quickly spotted. Both healthcare professionals and relatives play an important role.

Meanwhile, children usually appear to have a mild course of COVID-19. The symptoms are often mild, with short-term respiratory tract symptoms.

When you have an acute respiratory tract infection

Anyone with an acute respiratory tract infection with mild symptoms, should stay home until one day after the symptoms have passed. If you have confirmed or probable COVID-19, you should be isolated for at least 3 days after the symptoms have gone and for at least 8 days after symptom debut

COVID-19 can cause mild respiratory tract infections that can be difficult to distinguish from other infections, such as a cold or a sore throat (see table above). 

COVID-19 can also cause more severe symptoms. The most important symptom to watch for is having difficulty breathing. COVID-19 appears to increase the risk of blood clots, as with stroke, myocardial infarction (heart attack), pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. If you develop other acute symptoms for which you would normally seek medical attention, it is important that you contact the healthcare service. Suspicion of COVID-19 must not prevent you from getting the healthcare you need.

If you need help, call your doctor. If you cannot reach your doctor, call the emergency out-of-hours clinic (116117). For acute, life-threatening illness, call 113.

How to distinguish between COVID-19 and allergy

Common symptoms of allergy include tearing, itchy and red eyes, a runny nose, nasal congestion and sneezing. These symptoms are less common with COVID-19 (less than 5 per cent of cases). In case of allergy, allergy medicine will often relieve the symptoms. COVID-19 is not suspected for a person with typical allergy symptoms, without a fever, a new cough or breathing difficulties.

People with allergies can sometimes have a cough and / or breathing difficulties, especially if they also have asthma, but they rarely have a fever. If their symptoms include coughing and breathing difficulties, but are the same as in previous allergy seasons, COVID-19 is unlikely and no action is required.

However, it is important to note that people with allergy symptoms may also have COVID-19 at the same time, and therefore should stay home if there are additional symptoms typical of COVID-19, according to the table above. This is especially true for any new fever, cough and breathing difficulties. The same applies for people with other chronic respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis or asthma. Any changes from their usual symptoms should be considered when assessing them for COVID-19.

Who should be tested for COVID-19?

To prevent further transmission in the population and ensure appropriate treatment where needed, as many people as possible with suspected COVID-19 should be tested. A prioritised list over who should be tested can be found here: 

When a household member has an acute respiratory tract infection but is not tested for COVID-19

It is very important that everyone who has a fever, cold, sore throat or symptoms of respiratory tract infection stays at home. Current knowledge indicates that a person is most contagious early in the course of the disease and quickly becomes less contagious once the symptoms are gone.

In Norway, many people have been tested for COVID-19, but so far only about 5 per cent of all who have been tested have confirmed coronavirus. This means that many respiratory tract infections are caused by something other than coronavirus disease.

If someone in the household has an acute respiratory tract infection but does not have confirmed or probable COVID-19, they should try to keep a distance to other people in the household. The other household members are not in quarantine, but they should pay particular attention to their own symptoms. If they develop symptoms of respiratory tract infection, they should stay home until one day after the symptoms have gone.

This also applies to healthcare professionals. This means that healthcare professionals can go to work as normal, even though they have household members with respiratory tract infections that are not caused by confirmed or probable COVID-19.

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Facts

Coronavirus

SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus that is causing the outbreak of COVID-19 disease.

The virus is related to another coronavirus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2002/2003 but is not the same virus.