GebärdenspracheLeichte SpracheAudioinhalteDownloads

Choose language


A page by the Federal Ministry of Health

Bundesministerium für Gesundheit

Recognizing symptoms and taking correct action

What are the symptoms of Covid-19? How long are you contagious after you are infected with the novel coronavirus? You can get reliable information here.

Symptoms of Covid-19

The most frequent symptoms are a fever of over 38°C, coughing, a runny nose, headache and aching limbs, fatigue as well as a sore throat. Some people temporarily lose their sense of smell and/or taste, the cause of which is still being investigated. Some people may experience pneumonia, shortness of breath or the feeling that they cannot breathe at all. You should get in touch with your doctor if you feel that you are having more difficulties breathing than usual. However, the majority of COVID-19 cases are relatively mild, many show no symptoms at all. This can lead to people who may well feel healthy infecting others without knowing. This is why you should always adhere to the basic principles summed up by the DHM formula: Maintain a distance (at least 1.5 metres), observe the hygiene rules (coughing and sneezing into the crook of your arm or a paper handkerchief, washing your hands) and wear a community mask (when there is little room or in crowded, enclosed spaces).

If you have had personal contact with a person who was laboratory-confirmed as carrying the novel coronavirus, get in touch with your local public health office immediately, regardless of symptoms. They will then decide on the further course of action. In general: you should stay at home and reduce the number of people with whom you are in personal contact. Observe the sneezing and coughing etiquette, adhere to the recommended minimum distance of 1.5 metres from other people and wear a face mask when out in public places (DHM formula).

A simple sore throat is not necessarily a sign of infection with the novel coronavirus. If you notice additional symptoms, such as fever, coughing, headache and joint pain or a runny nose, please get in touch with your general practitioner or, should they be closed, contact the out-of-hours patient care services at the number 116 117. In urgent cases, such as respiratory distress, please call 112.

Symptoms can occur during the 14 days following contact with a person who is already infected with Covid-19 (incubation period). However, the progression of Covid-19 varies from one person to another and can also last longer than 14 days, especially in severe cases. Studies show that mild cases last an average of two weeks and severe cases three to six weeks.

According to findings so far, it is possible for you to already infect another person even before you experience symptoms yourself. After symptoms appear, you remain infectious for several days. Intensive research is currently underway to determine the average length of this period.

Acting correctly on symptoms

If you have symptoms, call your family doctor who will assess whether you have a suspected case of COVID-19. Alternatively, call the out-of-hours patient care services by dialling 116 117. They will decide how to proceed, taking your immobility into account.

If you had contact with persons who have tested positive, contact your local public health office for an individual consultation so they can recommend specific measures.

The Robert Koch Institute has produced an orientation aid for citizens “Covid-19: Bin ich betroffen und was ist zu tun?” (Covid-19: Am I affected and what should I do?”) It provides practical advice on which measures are required at which points in time.

If your child has a cough, it does not automatically mean that he/she is infected with the novel coronavirus. If you are uncertain, get in touch with your paediatrician or family physician who will decide on how to proceed, taking into account additional symptoms that may exist, such as fever, dry cough, runny nose, headaches and joint pain.

Whether you become immune after having recovered from an infection, and how long this immunity lasts, is currently the subject of intensive research. We know that some other coronaviruses that can infect humans may lead to immunity for up to three years. To help determine this with more precision, we need antibody tests that monitor patient immunity over a longer period of time.

It is possible that a test is still negative, even though the person is already infected. If you suspect that you might have become infected, call your attending physician or dial the number 116 117. They will decide whether you need to be retested.

If you are ill and the illness is unlikely to be related to the new coronavirus, you should still call your doctor before you visit the practice. If your doctor’s or a substitute doctor’s practice is closed, you can also call 116 117 – the national number of the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (Kassenärztliche Vereinigung). In an emergency, you can of course still go to an emergency outpatient clinic or call an ambulance by calling emergency services on 112.