These are the most crucial days to watch if you have any COVID-19 symptoms

Researchers remain confident that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 carriers will not require medical intervention. 

However, patients appear to endure the worst the ensuing respiratory disease has to offer by day ten of infection. 

“Days eight to 12 are when we have a really good idea if someone is going to get better or get worse,” said Dr. Charles A. Powell, director of the Mount Sinai-National Jewish Health Respiratory Institute in a statement. “The major thing we worry about is a worsening at eight to 12 days — an increasing shortness of breath, worsening cough.”

The broad 10-day median is consistent irrespective of case severity. Medical professionals  can better calculate windows by identifying the age and health status of infected patients. 

For older patients, immunocompromised and individuals suffering from conditions like hypertension and diabetes, COVID-19 complications are more likely to begin between days five and ten. For young and otherwise healthy carriers the estimation is closer to days ten and twelve. 

A “worsening condition” will evidence different patterns based on the factors indexed above.  For the most part subjects will experience respiratory impairments and all that those entail, though neuropathies, body aches, and even cognitive decline have been reported. 

“With any other disease, most people, after a week of symptoms, they’re like ‘OK, things will get better,’” said Dr. Leora Horwitz, associate professor of population health and medicine at N.Y.U. Langone Health in a sit down with The New York Times.. “With Covid, I tell people that around a week is when I want you to really pay attention to how you’re feeling. Don’t get complacent and feel like it’s all over.”

Mild cases tend to improve around two weeks after the onset of symptoms. A timeline following exposure is a little harder to draft because SARS-CoV-2’s incubation cycle varies greatly among populations. 

Some remain asymptomatic while others never develop symptoms associated  with COVID-19 even though both test positive. 

Mild COVID-19 cases denote infections that primarily impact the upper respiratory tract. These cases usually report a fever but not all of them occasion a dry cough. They may lose their sense of smell, experience fatigue, soreness, and a persistent headache. 

Even if these symptoms do not worsen, seek medical attention if they appear at all and you are over the age of 70, have a pre-existing heart, lung or kidney condition, an immune deficiency, are currently prescribed steroids, or had an organ transplant. 

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention sharp decline is often precluded  by one or more of the following indicators: 

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all-inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you,” the CDC reports. “Call 911 if you have a medical emergency: Notify the operator that you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a cloth face covering before medical help arrives.”

Clinically speaking, a critical coronavirus patient does not meet the normal oxygen saturation range of about 96 to 99 percent or surpasses ten to twelve breaths per minute. 

“The first part is viral illness and everything else,”  explained Dr. Anna Marie Chang, an associate professor of emergency medicine and director of clinical research at Thomas Jefferson University, in a release. “Your body is developing your immune-inflammatory response and trying to fight off infection. That system can get overstimulated, and that seems to be what causes the acute worsening. We’re seeing that around days seven to 10.”

Days eight to 10 indicate whether or not a COVID-19 patient is on the mend. If the recovery process has begun in this window, viral clearance will be effected by day 14 (though the subject may still test positive as swab tests also react to dead viral material). If not, subjects should be on high-alert for aggravators: namely oxygen levels, lung-compliance, fever, and cough. 

The majority of COVID-19 deaths occur as a result of multiple organ failure. Patients on ventilators do not receive enough oxygen in their bloodstream to sustain biological functions. This is often a result of pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). 

CW Headley is a staff reporter for the Ladders and can be reached at