Carefree M.D. Blog

10 Signs You're Getting Sick: The First Signs of Illness

Carefree MD

February 23, 2022 | Blog


The flu, common cold, and COVID-19 are all contagious and have similar symptoms. That's why you must pay attention to the early signs that you may be suffering from one of these respiratory illnesses.Knowing that you’re getting sick doesn’t just help you get ahead of an illness. It can also protect your loved ones from getting infected.

10 Signs You're Getting Sick

While there are a lot of early signs of illness, these 10 definitely stand out. They’re very common, and your illness can start with either one of them.Find out more about which symptoms these are, and what you need to look for.

1. Coughing

Coughing is your body’s natural way to respond to something that irritates your throat or airways. This irritant stimulates nerves, and your brain’s immediate response is to tell your chest and abdomen muscles to contract to push air out of your lungs.

The occasional cough is completely normal. Even things like dust can trigger it. However, a persistent cough is a sign of illness. Sometimes, you can even cough mucus up from your lungs.

A persistent cough is a common sign of a minor (or major) illness, and you should seek medical attention.Coughing became the headliner symptom of COVID-19. But, COVID isn’t the only sickness that could start with a cough. A cold, flu, sinusitis, and lung infection can all begin with a persistent cough.

If you have a cough, take a hot shower, drink plenty of fluids, and rest. If the cough doesn’t go away in 2 weeks, talk to a doctor.

2. Sore Throat

A sore, dry, and scratchy throat isn’t just painful. It’s also a common first sign of sickness. The common cold, strep throat, tonsilitis, and allergies often come with a sore throat.

3. Sneezing

If you’re sneezing a lot more than usual, especially if you have other symptoms on this list, it is probably the start of a common cold. Especially if you notice other symptoms of a cold.

However, sneezing is also a very common sign of an allergy. If you notice a rash, skin irritation, a runny nose and tearing, you may be having an allergic reaction.If your sneezing gets worse, or you notice any other symptoms, you should go to a doctor. Always cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze to prevent passing germs to someone else.

4. Runny Nose

When mucus is dripping from your nose, it’s called a "runny nose." It can happen if you spend too much time outdoors, but it could also be a symptom of allergies, a cold, or the flu.

When a virus or bacteria enters your body, it can irritate the lining of your nose and sinuses. The result is that your nose starts producing a lot of mucus to help flush the virus or bacteria out. This is what we call a runny nose.

Like sneezing, a runny nose is most likely a sign that you're getting sick when it happens with other common symptoms.If you have a bothersome runny nose, you should drink lots of water or tea. Sometimes, your skin can also get irritated from wiping your nose so much. Make sure you moisturize your nose to avoid dryness and pain.


5. Body Pains and Muscle Aches

There are many reasons you may be experiencing pain, including stress or injury, but if there seems to be no reason for lingering soreness, it could be the flu or even Covid-19. If you experience these symptoms, take some ibuprofen and drink plenty of fluids. Most importantly, you need to rest. If the pains and aches persist, you should talk to a doctor.

6. A Low-Grade Fever

If you're feeling a bit off and unusually warm, you should always check your temperature. A low-grade fever means that your body temperature is between 99.6°F and 100.3°F. 


Having a temperature means that your body’s fighting an infection. Luckily, a low grade-fever is nothing to worry about. You're simply likely coming down with something.However, you should seek a doctor or immediate medical attention if any of the following apply:

  • You have a fever (100.4°F - 103°F) that lasts for more than 3 days
  • You have high-grade fever (above 103°F)
  • Your baby under 3 months has a low-grade fever
  • Your child under 4 years old has a low-grade fever for more than 3 days



If you’re worried about your child’s temperature, but they’re not exhibiting any other symptom, it’s always better to seek medical attention just in case.

7. Headache

A headache can mean many different things. Stress, dehydration, or lack of sleep are some of the most common reasons why we get headaches.


However, it can also be a sign of a possible sinus infection. It may also be a cold or a flu symptom.If you have a headache, take some ibuprofen and some rest. If it persists, you should seek medical attention.

8. Congestion

While a runny nose can be annoying, the opposite can also make your life harder. A congested nose or airways makes breathing difficult. This congestion is a sign of inflammation, which is a common sign of infection.


Infections such as sinusitis and the common cold are some of the most common illnesses that have nasal congestion as a first symptom.

Over-the-counter decongestants, inhaling steam, and drinking plenty of water are effective home remedies against nasal congestion.

9. Loss of Appetite

A loss of appetite is a common side effect of our body's response to cold and flu viruses. However, if your loss of appetite is coupled with a loss of taste or smell, you may have COVID-19, as it is one of the most common symptoms of the virus.

10. Fatigue

When your body’s fighting an infection, it uses a lot of energy. This can mean fatigue or a decrease in stamina when you’re sick.

I'm Showing Signs of Illness. Is it the Common Cold? Is it the Flu? Or Is it Covid-19?

Since these 10 signs that you're getting sick are very common symptoms, it’s hard to tell what’s causing it.Whether it’s the common cold, the flu, sinusitis, tonsillitis, COVID-19 is hard to tell.


The only qualified person to diagnose you is a state-licensed, board-certified doctor. However, you can always take an educated guess. You need to pay attention to the symptoms to identify the unique ones for each of these illnesses.

For example, a loss of smell and a loss of taste are two common symptoms of COVID-19 and are not symptoms of a cold or the flu. But, not everyone who has COVID experiences these symptoms.

Do I Have a Common Cold?

When you have a common cold, your symptoms will show up within two to three days of catching the virus.Cold symptoms are generally mild and usually include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Stuffy nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Sore throat

A fever is generally not a symptom of a common cold. However, it has been known to occur.

Do I Have COVID-19?

COVID symptoms can range anywhere from mild to more severe. These symptoms typically show up between two days and two weeks after exposure to the virus.COVID symptoms usually include:

  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Body pain
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Loss of smell
  • Loss of taste
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat

Do I Have the Flu?

Flu symptoms can be mild to more severe. Signs of the flu will start suddenly and typically include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle pain
  • Stuffy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Diarrhea and vomiting (these symptoms are most common among children)


As you can see, fever is high on the list of flu symptoms. It’s one of the most common ones. So, if you can’t determine whether you have the cold or the flu, checking your temperature is a good start.

How to Prevent Sickness

You and your family can take several steps to protect yourself and those around you from the common cold, COVID-19, and the flu.

Get the COVID Vaccine and the Flu Shot

The best way to defend yourself and your family against COVID-19 and the flu virus is through vaccinations. Vaccines not only help to protect you from getting seriously ill, but it also helps reduce strain on our healthcare system.COVID-19 and the flu virus are serious and can cause severe illnesses that result in hospitalization or death. Getting both at the same time can be life-threatening as well. Just because you got the vaccine for one virus doesn't mean you're protected from the other.    

Take Preventative Measures

The same guidelines for prevention apply to COVID, the flu, and the common cold. These important safety measures include the following:

  • Avoid physical contact (shaking hands, hugging, etc.)
  • Do not touch contaminated surfaces and areas
  • Maintain proper social distancing (six feet)
  • Practice regular hand washing with soap and warm water
  • When washing your hands is not an option, use a hand sanitizer
  • Wear face masks whenever possible


If you’re experiencing signs of sickness, it’s best to stay at home, or practice these protective measures—such as wearing a facemask—to prevent others around you from catching the illness as well.


Should I Take a COVID-19 Test?

The first thing you should do if you show signs of COVID-19 or the flu is quarantine. Your next step should be to get tested.

The best time to get tested for COVID is 5 days after exposure, or at the first signs of your symptoms. So, as soon as you start coughing, lose your sense of smell, or get a fever, you should do a COVID test.

However, if you’re asymptomatic, yet you likely got in contact with COVID, you should wait 5 days from the time you may have gotten infected. Getting a COVID test too early may result in a false negative.

What Are My Treatment Options?

The treatments options for COVID, the common cold, and the flu are similar:

  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Be sure to get rest
  • Take medicines to ease headaches and reduce fevers



If your symptoms get worse, you should talk to a doctor.

Talking to a Doctor When You’re Sick

When you’re sick, the last thing you may feel like doing is going out and talking to a doctor. While talking to a doctor is necessary for your health, luckily, going out isn’t.


You can talk to a state-licensed, board-certified physician from the comfort of your home. All you need is an internet connection, a mobile or desktop device, and Carefree MD

And once you sign up, you can speak to a doctor who can evaluate, diagnose, and prescribe medication when medically necessary - all from the privacy of your home or office. There's no time limit, so feel free to ask all the questions you want. Best of all, it’s pay-as-you-go, so the monthly plan has no commitment. 

Sign up for Carefree MD to discuss your symptoms, get treatment today! 


The Carefree Dental MD blog is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The text and pictures within the content are intended for information purposes only. Readers should consult with a licensed doctor or healthcare professional before seeking treatment.

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