Nearly everyone on the planet is well aware of COVID-19’s most common symptoms, which include fever, shortness of breath, and a dry cough. However, over the last several months the CDC has added many items to the once limited list, including (but not limited to) loss of sense of smell and taste, muscle or body aches, headache, throat, and diarrhea. Now, thanks to a new algorithm, researchers have determined that there are actually specific sets of symptoms to look out for—some more severe than others.
For the study, researchers from King’s College London compiled data from over 1,600 patients in the United States and United Kingdom, who logged coronavirus symptoms on the Zoe health app in March and April and then an additional 1,047 in May. Using a machine learning algorithm, they identified six different “clusters” of symptoms, some of which were more prone to serious infection, including hospitalization, ventilator necessity, and even death.
“Although continuous cough, fever and loss of smell (anosmia) are usually highlighted as the three key symptoms of COVID-19, data gathered from app users shows that people can experience a wide range of different symptoms, including headaches, muscle pains, fatigue, diarrhea, confusion, loss of appetite, shortness of breath and more,” a statement published on the Zoe app explains. “The progression and outcomes also vary significantly between people, ranging from mild flu-like symptoms or a simple rash to severe or fatal disease.”
Type 1 (“flulike” with no fever): Headache, loss of smell, muscle pains, cough, sore throat, chest pain, no fever
Type 2 (“flulike” with fever): Headache, loss of smell, cough, sore throat, hoarseness, fever, loss of appetite
Type 3 (gastrointestinal): Headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, diarrhea, sore throat, chest pain, no cough
Type 4 (severe level one, fatigue): Headache, loss of smell, cough, fever, hoarseness, chest pain, fatigue
Type 5 (severe level two, confusion): Headache, loss of smell, loss of appetite, cough, fever, hoarseness, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue, confusion, muscle pain
Type 6 (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, diarrhea, abdominal pain
They then determined that patients in the 6, 5, and 4 clusters were most likely to need respiratory support (19.8 percent, 9.9 percent, and 8.6 percent, respectively) needed the most respiratory support, while “only 1.5 percent of people with cluster 1, 4.4 percent of people with cluster 2, and 3.3 percent of people with cluster 3 COVID-19 required breathing support,” researchers explained in the study.
Study authors hope that their results will help medical experts monitor at-risk patients and help arm them with tools to properly identify and treat them. For example, “patients who fall into cluster 5 or 6 at day 5 of the illness have a significant risk of hospitalization and respiratory support and may benefit from home pulse oximetry with daily phone calls from their general practice to ensure that hospital attendance occurs at the appropriate point in the course of their illness.”
As for yourself: Mask up, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 37 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.