What it’s like to have mild coronavirus symptoms

Before I start, I should say that during my illness, I wasn’t tested for coronavirus – that was seemingly impossible, unless I had been in hospital or had £350 to spare. But my symptoms met the criteria we’re told to look out for, and they started within hours of my housemate Kitty’s and several other people in my life, so it seems pretty likely.

I should also add that I’m aware of what a serious disease Covid-19 can be. Clearly, it’s horrendous for some – but according to emerging data, for about 80pc of people it amounts to only a ‘mild’ virus. 

Over four days, I believe that is what I’ve experienced. Symptoms change from person to person, but this is what it felt like for me…

Day one 

I wake up on Monday with the chills even though the heating is on and I’m wearing joggers and a jumper. I add another layer of clothing but the shivering doesn’t stop. My throat is extremely dry. My legs feel achy and I’ve developed a cough. I feel tired and remember that I did yesterday too, come to think of it. I drink a Berocca.

(Later, I forget I’ve taken this Berocca and freak out for a moment when I see that my pee has turned greenish.)

I mention my potential coronavirus to a few people, and they question me: “Do you really have it?” How would I bloody know, I respond. I call 111 when the symptoms get worse, but the voice recording says to hang up unless you’re critically ill. My housemate Kitty tells me I look pale, but I’m definitely not critically ill.

I check in with my boyfriend, Sam, who I’ve spent the weekend with. He’s had no symptoms and offers to help where he can, but as he could be carrying whatever it is we agree to not see each other for two weeks.

Around 3pm my legs spasm sporadically. I won’t lie, it’s a bit mental. This is something Kitty experiences later too. I’ve also had a headache all day which I’m treating with paracetamol and codeine. (I know not to take ibuprofen, stop telling me). I run a bath to stop the shivering which is a 101 mistake – the steam makes it difficult to breath. 

I finish work at 4pm and try to read but can’t take much in. My head is woozie. I watch Aeronauts on Netflix – a solid 6.5 out of 10. I feel exhausted and drift off for an hour.

Later that night Kitty and I compare our almost identical symptoms. We’re both progressively feeling worse. The government announces that anyone with a cough or fever (we have both, plus the rest) must stay in for seven days. With that in mind, we plan our upcoming isolation 26th birthdays – Kitty’s on Sunday and mine on Monday. We’re going to order a cake from a supermarket and hang up a banner. 

I still have an appetite and debate which food to eat now I’m officially in isolation. I really want some Quorn nuggets – but they are frozen goods which I must savour until the end. I make curry but can’t really taste it. Standing in the kitchen for 30 minutes is a struggle.

By the end of Day One sleep comes pretty easy. 

Day two 

I’m pleasantly surprised to learn on waking that I’ve slept for nine hours. Then I remember that I might have Covid-19. My dry throat is gone, though I still have a headache, a cough and achy muscles. I hover outside Kitty’s door, wary of waking her but eager to check she’s OK.

Kitty sleeps for 15 hours and wakes feeling terrible. She says she had a fever throughout the night, and dreamt that her mother was a crime-fighting whale. 

I manage to keep working – though with hindsight I don’t think I should have been. I live on a terrace road and can see everyone in their flats also working from home. I wave at one woman and she waves back. I feel very European.

When Kitty emerges from her room she makes a cheese toastie. She accidentally burns her toast. “I burnt my toast and I haven’t got much bread. Stop laughing. Shut up, I only have four slices of bread left,” she says.

My body really aches. My chest is tight too. Kitty sleeps all afternoon – another five hours’ worth.

When she’s awake, however, we’re laughing. We try to keep our spirits high, because, to be honest, we’re worried. We can’t help it.

Once more I think hot water would be good for the muscle pain and have a shower. I haven’t learnt from the bath incident. I am short of breath again. I make a note to avoid hot water and be smelly for the foreseeable future.

I’m flooded with messages. My parents, uncle, cousin, brother all check in throughout the day – they’re in Norwich where there’s only a handful of cases and are concerned. Some friends offer to drop food around too. 

I try to eat dinner but come over in sweats and need to lie down for an hour. Afterwards we try to arrange a food delivery for the weekend. There’s a slot on Thursday with Tesco if we tick ‘flexible’ – ho ho ho, we laugh, we’re extra flexible now. We add in our deepest desires: avocados, orange juice, and sweet sweet halloumi. We carefully select two birthday cakes. We’re excited. We talk about the feast we will have. As we hit order… and our slot is lost.

We try every food store that delivers but they’re all booked up for three weeks. 

Sam video calls me. He’s turned his chest of drawers into a desk by removing said drawers and is proud (the office is now on work from home mode). He shows me that he’s hoovered his carpet. “I’ve been so clean. I’ve been wiping down the kitchen surfaces every evening with a spray,” he says. Ah, isolation.

Kitty and I lay on her bed watching stupid videos. She wonders if the boy she’s been seeing is ghosting her or if he also has coronavirus. (Turns out, he did). We laugh about dating woes during the pandemic in-between the coughing.

In the evening I feel feverish and generally a bit strange.

Read more: Why are young, healthy people getting coronavirus?

Day three

The headache is pretty bad, and my eyes are somewhat painful to move. Staring at a screen is taxing. My cough is more regular now and I start taking the cough syrup that I’ve been saving up for the special occasion. I have a dull pain in my upper back. The fever and chills have gone though, and I don’t have any throat pain.

I also can’t get Come on Eileen, replaced with Covid-19, out of my head. I clap to it eight times a day minimum and soon my housemate joins in. It speeds things up a little. 

Taking the bin out feels like a treat. I have to stop halfway back up the stairs because my legs are sore. I worry often about whether this really is coronavirus or if there’s worse to come. I check frequently to see if there’s any way to get tested.

I join a conference call at midday and Kitty doesn’t realise. Nine people are on the call and she asks if I’ve “seen that meme of Cardi B saying ‘coronavirus’?” very loudly. I pretend it didn’t happen and mute my microphone. Afterwards, craving something sweet, I eat a spoon of syrup. Kitty judges me for this.

We run out of soap until I remember that I’m one of those hotel toiletry thieves and have a small bar tucked away from fancier times. 

At 5pm Kitty feels bad again. The virus seems to hit us in waves: we roll between feeling fine and then not so fine. Our friend brings us round some essentials to last until the weekend – eggs, juice, bread – leaving them at the door and standing back two metres. We chat briefly from the window.

I try to drink a cup of tea but struggle to swallow.

Read more: 7 things no one tells you before you get mild coronavirus symptoms

Day four 

Both of our headaches are more oppressive than the other days, but we can tell the worst is over. We sit at our kitchen table and work. We see quite a lot of people moving around our road and shout at them from inside (windows closed, we’re still British) “GET INSIDE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? IT’S THE APOCALYPSE.” This makes us laugh more than it should.

Sam wakes up with the symptoms and sleeps most of the day.

I receive a package from my parents filled to the brim with chocolate. When the postman knocks with it, I gesture that he can’t come near me. He grimaces, throws it on the floor and honest-to-god sprints down the road.

Despite trying to stay peppy, occasionally there’s a reality check. A friend messages to say she may get laid off. Another friend who is pregnant is told she shouldn’t leave her house until her baby is born late April. We talk about not being able to see our parents for months. I worry for my brother and sister-in-law who are working with seriously ill coronavirus patients in the NHS.

But we don’t dwell on what we can’t control and try to find some positives. We’ve been using the dishwasher to make sure everything is thoroughly cleaned – and frankly, that’s a luxury that I now refuse to give up. Not wearing a bra is also excellent.

Around 4pm I realise something has lifted. The headache is not so bad, my temperature has gone, I haven’t coughed in a few hours and my body doesn’t ache. To top it off, our friend knocks around with a homemade cake (again a drop and dash). We light candles and sing happy birthday to ourselves.

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