KELOLAND’s Sophie Heinemann talked to Dr. Wendell Hoffman with Sanford Health to talk a little bit about the symptoms that people should be looking out for with COVID-19.
Heinemann: So talk to me about some of the symptoms that might concern somebody.
Wendell: Yes, so a lot of folks are concerned about when should I call my physician, what symptoms are indicative of COVID-19. So I want to share with you, and I got my special graphics prepared today, from our graphics department, I’m kidding.
But in the COVID-19 symptoms, overall and from multiple studies, fever is by far and away the most common. Probably 90 percent or greater. Cough 60 to 70 percent, fatigue 60 to 70 percent. Shortness of breath about a third, and diarrhea probably less then 10 percent. Now you see over here on the right, some don’t mount a fever. Particularly the people who are on prednisone and the elderly, they will not mount fever responses like younger individuals. As you can see on the left side, as you get sicker all of these things tend to get worse and they compound themselves, one on top of the other.
Now, it is therefore important that we define what we mean by fever. This is a population curve, it’s called a bell curve. It’s a population of individuals, and unfortunately, we have fixated on 98.6 as though it was some ideal temperature. It is not. It is part of a range of normal’s that goes between 96 and 100 degrees. Our bodies are like furnaces, they’re regulated by a thermostat and here’s the range in which we go in. So when people say, I have a low-grade temp and they’re talking about a temperature of 99, let’s get rid of that. Ok? So in other words, we’re going to define a fever of a temperature of at least 100 degrees.
Now, remember we’re also on a biorhythm, ok, all of us are. Our temperatures fluctuate throughout the day, they’re dynamic, just like pulse, respiration’s, and blood pressure. And so in the morning, our temperatures are at their lowest, 2 to 3 a.m.. And in the late afternoon it’s 4 to 6 p.m. So a lot of people will say though, this is a fever for me, they say well 99.4 is a fever for me. No. Please. That’s not really true.
Heinemann: So when you reach 100 that would be a time to call a doctor?
Wendell: So the way you would know your normal temperature range, would be you would have to take your temperature for 3 months, and you’d have to take it at least twice a day. In order to really know your own range, who does that? Not very many people.
So there are different places you can measure your temperature. Skin, ear probe and oral are probably the 3 most common. And we kind of prefer oral, under the tongue with a good digital thermometer. And we’re talking about mainly adults here. So the kids are going to be kind of a different set of parameters. So we’re going to define fever of at least 100 degrees or greater. Now what you can do at home is you can maintain a temperature diary. So, today you can start in the morning when you get up and in the late afternoon and you write in your temperatures. And so that’s a way in which people can kind of begin to monitor. Particularly if they’re concerned they’ve been exposed to someone.
So the bottom line is, fever is the most common symptom. Now that doesn’t mean that the other symptoms aren’t important. You saw that shortness of breath was present in about a third initially, but as you get sicker that shortness of breath becomes more prominent and then the whole respiratory distress thing, particularly as people, get sicker.
So don’t panic if you’re concerned, watch your temperatures and then if you start having fevers call your doctor.