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Health and Fitness News

More Than Fever and Shortness of Breath

The wide range of COVID-19 symptoms.

Every day, scientists are learning more about how the new coronavirus works. When the virus first began to spread, the world was told symptoms were similar to the flu—a fever, cough, body aches, and fatigue, but with a defining feature of shortness of breath. As time has passed and thousands more have been infected, new and troubling symptoms have come to light.

What exactly happens when COVID-19 enters your body? While there’s still much to learn, here’s what the current research has found.

What Was Thought

Like other viruses, coronavirus makes its way into your body and enters healthy cells. In these cells, the virus takes over, duplicates itself into millions of copies, and spreads throughout the body, killing some healthy cells in the process. COVID-19 is a virus with a spiky surface that helps it latch onto receptors found on your body’s cells. It especially likes to attack lung cells, but can affect a variety of body systems.

When the virus enters your body through aerosols of infected people or from touching your face with the virus on your hands, it takes up to 14 days for symptoms to appear. An estimated 80 percent of infected people have a mild case that includes no more than a cough and fever. Others seem to have no symptoms at all. For others, the virus leads to severe symptoms that include shortness of breath and acute respiratory distress syndrome (rapid heart rate, fast breathing, sweating, and dizziness). Severe cases require a ventilator to help people breathe.

More Than Was Thought

COVID-19 is now known to be more than a respiratory virus and more dangerous than previously thought. As more information is uncovered, it’s been determined that the virus can affect multiple body organs and mimic a variety of other diseases.

In addition to respiratory symptoms, the coronavirus can cause abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, muscle aches, confusion, a loss of taste and/or smell, rashes, pinkeye, blood clots, heart rhythm problems, heart failure, fainting spells, seizures, liver damage, kidney damage, and central nervous system damage. The virus has been detected not only in the throat and nasal passages, but in the kidneys, liver, pancreas, heart, tears, stool, and fluid around the brain.

And while it was initially thought that children were immune, a few children and teens have developed a new syndrome now known as pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome due to COVID-19. When contracted, the condition causes fever, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, and heart problems.

Because of this wide range of symptoms that may mimic other health conditions, COVID-19 is particularly hard to diagnose and treat.

How It Kills

So how is the coronavirus deadly? There seem to be several causes.
When lung cells are severely damaged, the immune system is activated and overstimulated. The chemicals that trigger the immune response are called cytokines. Too many cytokines in the system can be fatal as they can lead to a drop in blood pressure; too many inflammatory cells; and injury in the heart, kidneys, lungs, and brain.

Death from COVID-19 may also be traced back to abnormal blood clotting. When a blood clot cuts off blood flow to the brain, the end result is stroke. Blood clots in the lungs can cut off the flow of oxygen. Even people on blood thinner medications are developing blood clots. Why blood clots are forming is still unknown, but they are playing a role in the death rate.

Other ways the virus leads to death may be from low oxygen levels, low blood pressure due to severe illness, use of a ventilator, and even medications used to attempt to cure someone from the disease.