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Lily Wong
Written by Lily Wong

Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan

Early COVID Symptoms: Get Tested When You Notice These Signs

Mild or severe, you should not ignore COVID symptoms. Here are the early signs of the coronavirus infection that you should watch out for.

Doctor using a COVID-19 rapid antigen test to do a quick swab on a patient

As the coronavirus rages on and evolves into new variants like the Omicron, you have to be more vigilant than ever. Apart from keeping your hands clean, wearing masks, and getting vaccinated, it is important to identify early COVID symptoms and get tested, no matter how mild they are. This article highlights some of the early signs and common symptoms of the coronavirus infection worth paying attention to.

Early COVID Symptoms  

Some of the early symptoms observed in people with COVID often include fatigue, headache, sore throat and fever. A majority of people also reported a loss of taste and smell. These symptoms range from mild to intense and can progress rapidly into a worsening cough or difficulty in breathing. In severe cases, patients may develop pneumonia.

COVID symptoms can appear as early as two days after exposure to the virus. Many patients also experience symptoms for up to 14 days. Some infected people do not have any symptoms at all. However, even if they are asymptomatic, they can still spread the virus.

With the rise of the Omicron variant, there are also some new first symptoms. Specifically, in mild breakthrough infections, a sore throat is one of the main indicators of the disease.

Data in a 2021 Covid Symptoms Study showed that the top five symptoms reported for Omicron infection were runny nose, headache, fatigue (either mild or severe), sneezing and sore throat. 

COVID Symptoms and Vaccination  

Woman feeling unwell and sneezing on bed
Sneezing is one of the top COVID symptoms experienced by people who are already vaccinated.

In addition, those who have been vaccinated and unvaccinated experienced these top five symptoms according to an extensive COVID study. 

After two doses of the vaccine: After only one dose of the vaccine: Unvaccinated: 
Runny nose 
Sore throat 
Persistent cough  
Runny nose 
Sore throat 
Persistent cough  
Sore Throat 
Runny Nose 
Persistent cough  

The study observed that one of the top COVID symptoms experienced by vaccinated people is sneezing. So if you are sneezing a lot without any good explanation or experience any of the symptoms highlighted above, isolate yourself and get tested immediately. 

Take note that even if symptoms are initially mild, they may develop into something more severe. If you experience any of these warning signs, seek medical attention at once:  

  • Trouble breathing 
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest 
  • Confusion 
  • Inability to wake or stay awake 
  • Pale, grey, or blue-coloured skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on your skin tone 

Preventative Measures to Adopt

Doctor giving an injection to a woman
COVID booster shots are highly recommended to restore the vaccine’s effectiveness.

To date, there is no cure for COVID. To protect ourselves and others, the best approach is to take preventative measures. These include:  

  • Wearing face masks and gloves 
  • Maintaining physical distancing of one metre and above 
  • Avoiding mass gatherings 
  • Covering your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue or flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing 
  • Avoiding touching the eyes, mouth, or nose
  • Avoiding handshakes 
  • Staying home if immunocompromised or has comorbidities 
  • Limiting travelling to COVID affected areas or countries 
  • Self-isolating at home and screening for COVID if you experience any symptoms 

Additionally, if you are eligible for a third shot, the Health Ministry in Malaysia highly recommends COVID booster shots to restore vaccine effectiveness and reduce the severity of the infection and its symptoms.

Natural Remedies to Prevent Viruses

Recent research shows that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is effective in preventing viruses. Modern pharmacological studies report that TCM ingredients are effective in clearing away Heat and Detoxifying, as well as in relieving surface Dampness, thereby inhibiting the spread of the virus.

According to the research, TCM serves as an antiviral in two ways: 

1. First, directly inhibiting the virus, primarily by Heat-clearing and Detoxifying. The herbs Lonicera (jin yin hua, 金银花), Folium isatidis (da qing ye, 大青葉), and Scutellaria (huang qin, 黄芩) are used for this purpose.

2. Second, indirectly playing an antiviral role or inhibiting the virus-mediated inflammatory response by regulating the body’s immune function. Astragalus (huang qi, 黄芪), Salvia (dan shen, 丹参), Acanthopanax senticosus (ci wu jia, 刺五加) and Gentiana (qin jiao, 秦艽) are used as antivirals to induce interferon and immunoglobulin. 

It is also essential to keep your body strong and healthy, boost your immune system, and take care of your mental health at this time. Besides a healthy diet, exercise, and good sleeping habits, TCM recommends nourishing your qi (vital life energy) using herbs like American ginseng (xi yang shen, 西洋参), Astragalus (huang qi, 黄芪), and Codonopsis (dang shen, 党参). You can also try propolis extract, (feng jiao, 蜂胶) which offers anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, to support your immune system. 

Whether you are experiencing mild or severe COVID symptoms, it’s crucial to get tested and seek medical attention immediately. Practise good hygiene habits and take preventative steps to protect ourselves and stop the virus from spreading to others. Talk to your doctor or physicians to learn more about the early symptoms and how you can take care of yourself and your family.


  1. John Hopkins Medicine. 2022. COVID Symptoms — Frequently Asked Questions. [online] [Accessed 9 February 2022] 
  2. ZOE COVID Study. 2021. What are the new top 5 COVID symptoms? [online] [Accessed 9 February 2022] 
  3. BMJ. 2021. Covid-19: Runny nose, headache, and fatigue are commonest symptoms of Omicron, early data show. [online]  [Accessed 9 February 2022] 
  4. NBC Chicago. 2022. Here’s One Early Omicron Symptom You Should Watch for as Infections Climb. [online]  [Accessed 9 February 2022] 
  5. Osong Public Health and Research Perspectives. 2020. COVID-19 Outbreak in Malaysia. [online] [Accessed 9 February 2022] 
  6. Phytomedicine. 2021. Prevention and treatment of COVID-19 using Traditional Chinese Medicine: A review. [online] [Accessed 9 February 2022] 

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