Coronavirus information
07:57 · 30 July 2021

Fever, coughing, feeling unwell: Suspicion of COVID-19

In addition to fever, coughing and a runny nose are often symptoms of COVID-19. However, there are also other symptoms that could indicate that you have the disease. Here you can find out how to recognise COVID-19 and what you should do if you suspect you might have it.

Fever and coughing are symptoms of COVID-19.

COVID-19 is a disease that primarily affects the respiratory system. The most frequent symptoms resemble those of other respiratory diseases: coughing, fever, feeling unwell, tiredness. This is why it is not always easy to tell whether you have COVID-19, influenza or the common cold. However, you should not take the initial symptoms lightly. At worst, the disease triggered by the coronavirus can be fatal. Nonetheless, 80 percent of those infected with the virus experience only mild symptoms or even none at all. The level of under-reporting among those who have survived an infection without symptoms is currently being investigated by research institutes, for instance through studies on the prevalence of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. After a person has been infected, symptoms appear with some delay – the so-called incubation period – which lasts on average 5 to 6 days but can continue for up to 14 days.

Here you can find out what you should do if you suddenly have a cough or fever, or if a colleague with whom you recently had contact, has tested positive for coronavirus:

What symptoms are possible with COVID-19?

The most common symptoms include a dry cough, a cold and a fever of over 38°C. However, a series of additional symptoms such as difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and headache are also possible. Many of those affected temporarily lose their sense of taste and smell. Symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, swollen lymph nodes and drowsiness (somnolence) are reported less often. In particularly severe cases of illness, affected persons develop pneumonia and need to be hospitalised for intensive care. However, these symptoms and their severity vary from person to person. There are no “typical” symptoms by which COVID-19 can be unmistakeably recognised. Specific risk factors could favour a severe disease progression. 

Are you included in the risk group?

In principle, anyone with a weakened immune system has a higher risk of experiencing a severe progression. Since your immune system weakens as you gets older, old age constitutes a risk factor. Specific pre-existing conditions also make it more likely for the infection to take a more serious course. These include: chronic respiratory or pulmonary diseases (such as COPD or asthma), coronary diseases, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes mellitus (sugar), severe depression and bipolar disorders. To avoid even as much as risking a severe progression of COVID-19 disease, it is all the more important for persons in the risk group to get vaccinated as soon as possible, since the coronavirus vaccination prevents severe disease progression. 

What should I do if I develop COVID-19 symptoms?

As soon as you notice symptoms that suggest a COVID-19 infection, you should self-isolate at home. Reduce your contact with other persons to the bare minimum, so as not to expose them to the risk of infection. Any person who has cold-like symptoms or any of the other symptoms listed above for COVID-19, or has had contact with a person who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, should phone his/her doctor. Please do not go to your doctor’s surgery directly, but instead first clarify what to do next by phone. This can help prevent others from becoming infected with the virus. Outside of normal surgery opening hours, you can also call the on-duty medical service by dialling the number 116 117 from anywhere in Germany. You can also inform your local public health office. The Robert Koch Institute offers a tool (in German, English, Spanish and French) that helps you find the public health office that is responsible for you.

Whether or not to conduct a test is decided by one of the above-mentioned bodies based on the National Test Strategy. Furthermore, during the telephone conversation additional steps will be discussed, such as where to conduct the coronavirus test and if it can potentially be conducted at your home.

Have you had close contact with a person infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus? 

If you had contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus, phone your local public health office ( immediately, irrespective of symptoms. Based on an individual consultation, the public health office can recommend specific measures and decide on necessary further steps. During this time, you should  stay at home at all costs.

The physical proximity to an infected person is one factor that is decisive in coronavirus transmission. The virus is transmitted through droplets and tiny liquid particles (aerosols) that infected persons expel when they breathe, speak, cough or sneeze, for example. But there are other possible modes of transmission, such as via surfaces. This makes any contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids especially risky. A distinction can be made between different categories of contact persons, depending on the proximity and length of contact, and whether a mouth and nose protection was worn. Category 1 contact persons are persons who had particularly close contact with an infected person without mouth and nose protection, for example, for at least 15 minutes and at a distance of less than 1.5 metres. In this category, an especially strict Quarantine measures is necessary as the risk of transmission is especially high. Should you be a category 1 contact person, you must quarantine yourself in your home for 14 days as soon as possible. For more information on home quarantine, click here or contact your local health office.

Keep a quarantine journal

If you need to quarantine yourself after having had contact with an infected person, you will be required to keep a quarantine journal. In it, you are to record possible symptoms and your body temperature. The Robert Koch Institute recommends that you take your temperature twice a day. You are also supposed to record daily activities and any contact with other persons. Should you test positive at a later date, it will be possible to inform the contact persons noted in the journal of their infection risk. The public health office will contact you regularly to enquire about your state of health.

If your symptoms are mild: stay at home until you get better

If you have tested positive for the coronavirus but only have mild symptoms or none at all, you can stay at home until the infection has passed. During this time, you should isolate yourself from others. If you live in a household with other persons, you should isolate yourself where you can, if possible in a separate room. If you can, avoid eating together with other members of the household. Have your purchases delivered to your door and always air your rooms thoroughly. The competent public health office will determine when the isolation can be lifted. However, you should remain isolated until ten days after the symptoms first appeared, and a minimum of 48 hours since having experienced a sustained improvement in your acute symptoms. The Robert Koch Institute provides additional helpful tips for citizens here: Orientation aid.

Persons who have not tested positive, but suspect they might have coronavirus, should also isolate themselves at home as quickly as possible. Do not hesitate to seek medical advice should your medical symptoms worsen (for example if you have increased difficulty breathing or if you develop a high fever). In case of emergency, dial 112.

Interrupt chains of infection by using the DHM+A+A rules

Please bear in mind that, even if you have no symptoms, you could be infected yourself and consequently infect others. Thin is why it is important for you to continue to reduce the number of persons with whom you are in contact and follow the DHM+A+A rules: Distance, Hygiene, Masking up, + regular Airing and use (of) the Corona-Warn-App.

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