The Serious Symptoms of COVID-19: Explained

Epicentre News • 11 August 2020

A COVID infection is fast, and sometimes life threatening. It’s very important to know the warning signs so you can seek help when a COVID-19 infection turns serious.

Each Day of a COVID infection (McGrath et al)

  • Day (-)5: patients exposure to COVID-19 happens. After 5 days their infection will officially ‘begin’.
  • Day 0-2: 5 days after their initial exposure, their infection will ‘happen’ in these first 2 days
    • They will become contagious in those first 2-3 days, but will show no symptoms
    • You can test at this point because your infection has officially begun
  • Day 3: Their symptoms will appear
    • But for 80% of people, they will have no symptoms or a mild case of COVID-19
  • Day 5-7: This is a crucial period of days as it is at this point that many people go into hospital if they have a serious case of the virus. Some patients may have a “mild” case of the disease in the very beginning, but their symptoms may get worse over the course of the first week or more & then they may need hospitalization.

    • Those who need hospitalization normally reach this point of needing additional health support on day 5 to 7 after their symptoms start (Wang, et al).
    • These patients should be on the lookout for any worsening ability to perform normal activities or tasks at home due to ‘shortness of breath’. These patients should immediately contact their doctor.
    • These patients need to take a copy of their positive COVID-19 results & get checked again at a healthcare facility.
  • Day 14: If you had a mild case and are symptom free, you can stop isolating.

What to Do if You Think You Have COVID

To say the arrival of COVID-19 took most of us by surprise is an understatement. COVID is related to SARS but its fatality rate is significantly lower, and after the outbreak it became clear that COVID-19 is far more contagious (Piguillem, & Shi, 2020).

Evidence has shown again and again that while policies like the lockdown helps slow down the spread of infection, the use of testing by potentially infected individuals is by far the superior strategy (Piguillem, & Shi, 2020).

That’s why with Epicentre to test for COVID with us:

  • You DO NOT need to wait 7 days
  • You need to wait 5 days after you think you touched or breathed in the COVID virus before getting a test
  • You DO NOT need a doctors referral
  • You Do NOT need to be showing symptoms
  • You just need to make an online booking

Dr Carmen’s serious COVID symptoms:

Dr Carmen explains in her video that a COVID infection is dangerous because it can develop into pneumonia. This can happen suddenly and we want to catch it quickly to give patients the best possible chance of recovery (which is the case for most patients).

The warning signs you need to be on the lookout for are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Being unable to drink or hydrate yourself
  • Not being able to pee or peeing very little at a time
  • Coughing up phlegm (spit) that is very thick and has changed colour (it is now very dark)
  • & an uncontrollable fever

If you have tested positive for COVID and you experience these warning signs, phone your doctor immediately. If you need to go to the hospital, call ahead and tell them you are coming and bring your proof of a COVID positive diagnosis.

If you have not tested for COVID and you are experiencing these symptoms, book a test as soon as possible and contact your doctor for further help.

No Symptoms but COVID Positive

In this video, Epicentre & Dr. Carmen James, one of the first COVID positive South African doctors, examine how you can be ‘asymptomatic‘ for COVID-19 and still be contagious!

80% of people that test positive for COVID either have very few symptoms (a mild case of COVID) or have no symptoms at all and are considered to be asymptomatic. In fact, many people who test positive for COVID are asymptomatic and have no idea how they got the infection.

COVID is a very interesting virus because unlike many other forms of the flu there is evidence that people don’t only get infected by touching contaminated surfaces and being coughed or sneezed on by an infected person (Asad et al., 2020). What makes COVID so strange is that many people catch COVID from someone who doesn’t look or behave sick at all (Asad et al., 2020).

Scientists call this a non-violent infection (Asad et al., 2020). This means that to catch COVID, someone can just be talking or breathing near you (Asad et al., 2020). The louder they talk, the more COVID particles they push out into the air (Asad et al., 2020).

That’s why it’s so important that everyone wears a mask, because even if you show no symptoms, an asymptomatic person is just as contagious as someone with a serious case of COVID.

How to Care for your COVID Positive Loved Ones

In this video, Dr. Carmen James and Epicentre talk about what to do and what not to do if you are caring for a loved one who has COVID.

When you are sharing a home with someone who tests positive for COVID you need to try your hardest not to be infected yourself. Even if the person has no symptoms or has a very mild case of the virus, as there is a chance you could get a very serious form of the virus.

You also have to be aware that mild cases of the virus can develop into a serious form of COVID very quickly. If this happens, the person you are caring for needs you there to visit them and offer them support in hospital. The best gift you can give them is staying healthy so you can be there for them.

How to Keep from Getting Infected:

  1. The infected person needs to be quarantined away from everyone else (a spare bedroom is ideal)
  2. They should not leave that room, but if they do everything they touch should be disinfected
  3. If they use a bathroom that others use they should close the toilet lid when they flush and the toilet lid, the toilet handle and any taps on the sink or door knobs should be disinfected.
  4. When delivering food to an infected person anything they used to eat or touch, should be treated as contaminated with the virus. Wear a mask when delivering and collecting dishes, wear gloves when cleaning dishes and disinfect gloves and dishes with a bleach solution after use.
  5. When collecting laundry, treat everything as contaminated with COVID. When taking off the sheet bring the corners together, so the part that is slept on is in the middle. Hold the sheet away from your body and don’t shake the sheet, to prevent the virus from being shaken into the air.
  6. You should dispose of any tissues

How to make a bleach mixture for cleaning at home


  1. Piguillem, F., & Shi, L. (2020). Optimal COVID-19 quarantine and testing policies.
  2. Asadi, S., Bouvier, N., Wexler, A. S., & Ristenpart, W. D. (2020). The coronavirus pandemic and aerosols: Does COVID-19 transmit via expiratory particles?.