COVID-19 symptoms

What the COVID-19 symptoms are, including Long COVID, how fast they appear, and what to do if you have any symptoms.

COVID-19 symptoms

Symptoms can include one or more of the following:

  • a new or worsening cough
  • sneezing and runny nose
  • a fever
  • temporary loss of smell or altered sense of taste
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath.

Less common symptoms may include:

  • diarrhoea
  • headache
  • muscle pain or body aches
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • malaise — a general feeling of discomfort, illness or unease
  • chest pain
  • abdominal pain
  • joint pain
  • confusion or irritability.

These less common symptoms almost always occur with one or more of the common symptoms.

These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have COVID-19. The symptoms are like other illnesses that are much more common, such as colds and flu.

Shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention.

If you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor, Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or your iwi health provider.

Time for symptoms to appear

Symptoms tend to arise around 2 to 5 days after a person is infected, but symptoms can take up to 14 days to show. A person with COVID-19 can pass it on to others from up to 2 days before showing symptoms.

Sometimes people may have COVID-19, but not have any symptoms.

If you have any symptoms

Talk to a health professional

If you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and call:

  • Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453
  • your doctor, or
  • your iwi health provider.

A health professional will tell you whether you fit the criteria for testing. Call your doctor before visiting.

If you are outside New Zealand call +64 9 358 5453 or your doctor.

While you have symptoms

  • Stay home. Do not go to work or school. Do not socialise.
  • Call your doctor or Healthline and check if you should get tested.
  • Wash your hands often. 
  • Sneeze and cough into your elbow, and disinfect shared surfaces often.
  • If health authorities tell you to self-isolate, do so immediately. If you are waiting for test results you will also need to self-isolate. 

Information about testing for COVID-19

How COVID-19 spreads

COVID-19 is usually spread from person to person. When an infected person breathes, speaks, coughs, sneezes or sings, they may spread particles containing the virus.

These particles range in size. Larger and heavier particles — droplets — quickly fall to the ground or other surfaces within seconds or minutes. Smaller particles — aerosols — can remain airborne for minutes to hours. Spread of the virus by aerosols appears to be more important than previously thought.

The risk of airborne transmission becomes higher:

  • in enclosed spaces that do not have good airflow
  • in crowded places with many people nearby
  • in close-contact settings, such as close-range conversations, singing, or shouting.

The risk is lower outside, with fewer people, and if people are widely spread.

How to protect yourself and others

Keeping up healthy habits can slow the spread of the virus and help protect you, your whānau, and your community from COVID-19. Even if you are vaccinated, you still need to keep up these habits.

  • If you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms, stay home and call your doctor or Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453.
  • Regularly wash and thoroughly dry your hands.
  • Sneeze and cough into your elbow.
  • Keep a 2 metre distance from people you do not know.
  • Clean or disinfect shared surfaces often.
  • Wear a face covering.
  • Keep track of where you have been with the NZ COVID Tracer app.

Long COVID

Long COVID describes the symptoms that continue or develop after the initial COVID-19 symptoms. This is usually longer than 4 weeks after a person is first infected.

Most people who get COVID-19 recover completely. However, some people report a range of symptoms beyond the standard time of recovery.

Symptoms of long COVID can persist for weeks or sometimes months. They can include:

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • cough
  • low mood
  • headaches
  • difficulty concentrating, cognitive impairment or 'brain fog'
  • chest pain
  • joint pain
  • muscle aches and pains
  • muscle weakness
  • ongoing changes to smell or taste
  • fast-beating or a 'pounding' heart
  • sleep disturbances.

For support with management and treatment of long COVID, seek help from your doctor or healthcare team.

You can find more information about long COVID on the Ministry of Health website.

Long COVID (external link)

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