COVID-19 Overview

COVID-19 Basics

COVID-19 Facts

  • Symptoms. The most common symptoms are sore throat, cough, headache and fever. Some patients progress through shortness of breath. Other common symptoms are chills, shivering (shaking), runny nose, muscle pains or body aches, and loss of smell or taste. The CDC also includes the following less-common symptoms: fatigue (tiredness), nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Incubation Period: average 5 days (range 2 to 14 days) after coming in contact with the secretions of a person who has COVID-19. Incubation periods can vary depending on the variant.
  • No Symptoms but Infected: some infected patients have no symptoms.
  • Mild Infections: most people with symptoms have a mild illness, much like normal flu or a bad cold. The symptoms usually last 2 weeks. 
  • Severe Infections. In general, severe infection refers to patients who develop trouble breathing from viral pneumonia. Unvaccinated adults have the highest rate of this complication. Many of these need to be admitted to the hospital. People with complications generally recover in 3 to 6 weeks. Severe infections are rare in people who are vaccinated. Older adults are at the highest risk.
  • Deaths: children generally have a mild illness and recover quickly. Pediatric deaths are rare. Older adults, especially those with chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes or weak immune systems, have the highest death rates. 
  • Vaccine: safe and effective vaccines are available. At this time, vaccines have been tested and are FDA approved for 6 months and older. Stay up to date by getting all recommended boosters when eligible. Check the CDC website to see if you and your child are current on your vaccines.
  • Breakthrough cases are COVID-19 infections that happen despite vaccine protection. They are more common with new variants. Most do not cause any serious symptoms. The vaccine prevents almost all hospital admissions and deaths.
  • Treatment: anti-viral treatments for COVID-19 are available. They are mainly used for high-risk patients and those who are hospitalized.  
  • Prevention: the COVID-19 vaccine(s) are the best way to prevent serious infections.

How Is COVID-19 Spread?

  • COVID-19 is spread from person to person.
  • The virus spreads by respiratory droplets that are produced when a person coughs, sneezes, shouts or sings. The infected droplets can then be inhaled by a nearby person or land on the surface of their eyes.
  • Most infected people also have respiratory secretions on their hands. These secretions get transferred to healthy people on doorknobs, faucet handles, etc. The virus then gets transferred to healthy people when they touch their face or rub their eyes.
  • These methods are how most respiratory viruses spread

COVID-19 Testing – Who Needs It

  • Home self-test kits are easy to get at many grocery and drug stores.
  • Most doctor’s offices, retail clinics and urgent care centers also offer testing.
  • Diagnostic tests are performed on nasal or mouth secretions. The tests can tell us if you have a COVID-19 infection now. Timing is important on when to do this test:
    • With Symptoms. Get a test within 3 days of onset of symptoms. 
    • Without Symptoms and a COVID-19 close contact. You can get a test on day 5 after the last day of exposure.
  • If you have testing questions, call your doctor during office hours.

COVID-19 Vaccine – Get Your COVID-19 Shot and Booster Shots:

  • Stay current with your COVID-19 shot(s). Vaccines have saved more lives than any other public health action. They are the most powerful weapon we have against deadly infectious diseases. Follow the science.
  • Safe and effective vaccines are now available for people age 6 months and older.
  • Get your COVID-19 vaccine(s). It could save your life and protect your family.
  • Vaccine Sites: find a nearby vaccine site at or call your doctor’s office.

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C)

  • MIS-C is a very rare and severe complication of COVID-19.
  • Symptoms: the most common symptoms are fever with a red rash, red eyes, red lips, red palms and soles. Abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea also occur. Half of the patients develop trouble breathing. MIS-C always has more than two symptoms.
  • Onset of symptoms: usually about 4 weeks after COVID-19 infection and apparent recovery.
  • Peak Age: 8 years. Age range: 6 months to 21 years.
  • Treatment: children with MIS-C need to be admitted to the hospital. MIS-C is treatable with medications, including IV immune serum globulin and steroids.
  • Outcome: most children make a full recovery.

Trusted Sources for Accurate COVID-19 Information?

To meet the high demand for COVID-19 information, when possible, find your answers online. Here are the most reliable websites:

Always follow the most current CDC recommendations if they are different than those in this document.

Author: Barton Schmitt, MD, FAAP
Copyright: Copyright 2024. Updated February 20, 2024.
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.