Although most patients with Covid-19 may have mild or no symptoms, those who are ill enough to be hospitalized often have fever, cough, or shortness of breath that lasts for 2 weeks or longer.
Fever: A Chinese study 1 involving 137 successfully discharged hospitalized patients reported that fever (37.3° C or 99.1° F or higher) lasted a median of 12 days (range 8-13 days). It’s important to point out that nearly one-quarter of these patients were also placed on corticosteroids during their hospitalization which might have resulted in the resolution of fever sooner and therefore altered the “natural course” of Covid-19. In a smaller study from Singapore2 involving generally less ill hospitalized patients, fever didn’t usually last as long (median 4 days, range 0-15 days).
Cough/shortness of breath: Cough may last nearly 3 weeks (median 19 days) while shortness of breath can go on for about 2 weeks (median 13 days).1
All symptoms: Even among those who are less ill and do not require supplemental oxygen, it may take nearly 2 weeks (median 12 days, range 5-24 days) for all the Covid-19-related symptoms (defined as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, sore throat, diarrhea, and rhinorrhea) to resolve.2
It goes without saying that recovery from Covid-19 among hospitalized patients may be slow. In a Seattle study3 involving hospitalized patients who were admitted to the ICU, the median duration on the ventilator was 10 days (IQR 7-12 days), and the median length of hospital stay was 17 days (IQR 16-23 days).
Hopefully, as we find effective anti-Covid-19 drugs, the duration of these symptoms and length of hospitalization can be significantly reduced. Stay tuned!
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- Zhou F, Yu T, Du R, et al. Clinical course and risk factors for mortality of adult inpatients with COCID-19 in Wuhan, China: a retrospective cohort study. Lancet 2020;395:1054-62. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30566-3/fulltext
- Young BE, Ong SWX, Kalimuddin S, et al. Epidemiologic features and clinical course of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 in Singapore. JAMA 2020; March 3, 2020 (corrected March 20). https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2762688
- Bhatraju PK, Ghassemieh BJ, Nichols M, et al. Covid-19 in critically ill patients in the seattle region—Case series. N Engl J Med 2020; March 30. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2004500
Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!