woman blowing her nose sitting on a couch

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the director of the CDC reminded people that the U.S. is seeing about one-quarter of the hospitalizations in August 2023 compared to August 2022.

Stronger immunity, COVID vaccines, tests and effective treatments are helping keep people out of the hospital. Still, this uptick in COVID-19 cases is a good reminder to follow CDC recommendations, wash your hands and stay away from sick people. And if you're sick, stay home to avoid spreading it to others.

Here's a reminder of the COVID symptoms and how to do an at-home test if you start feeling sick.

Are there any new COVID-19 symptoms in 2023?

No, the symptoms are the same, even with new COVID variants like Eris (EG.5) and omicron BA.2.86. You should look for the following COVID symptoms:

  • fever or chills
  • cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • fatigue
  • muscle or body ache
  • headache
  • new loss of taste or smell
  • sore throat
  • congestion or runny nose
  • diarrhea
  • nausea or vomiting

These symptoms may be a sign of COVID infection, but these also could mean you have a different illness. Call your primary care provider if you have questions or think you were in contact with someone who had COVID. You can also take an at-home COVID-19 test to help find out if you have the virus.

Learn more about COVID-19 symptoms

Read more about BA.2.86 and EG.5: How will the new COVID-19 boosters work with new variants?

How long do COVID symptoms last?

COVID-19 symptoms appear about 2-14 days after exposure to the virus, according to the CDC.

People who test positive for COVID-19 typically have symptoms for a couple weeks. People who have long COVID (also known as long-haulers) can have persistent symptoms that last at least 12 weeks after infection.

What are the severe symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID symptoms that are considered more severe, according to the CDC, include:

  • trouble breathing
  • persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • new confusion
  • inability to wake up or stay awake
  • pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

This is not a complete list of severe symptoms. If you have COVID symptoms that are concerning, call your health care provider.

What are common long COVID symptoms?

The list of symptoms for people with long COVID can vary. For some people, long COVID can last at least 12 weeks after symptoms first appeared. Here is a list of the most common long COVID symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Fast-beating heart (heart palpitations)
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities
  • Pins-and-needles feeling
  • Diarrhea
  • Change in taste and smell
  • Fever
  • Dizziness when standing up
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Rash
  • Mood changes
  • Headache
  • Changes in menstrual cycles
  • Brain fog
  • Depression and anxiety

Learn about UC Davis Health's Post-COVID-19 Clinic in Sacramento

Read more: 9 things we've learned about COVID long haulers so far (from UC Davis Health)

How do I use an at-home COVID test?

When taking an at-home COVID test, also known as a rapid test, always read the maker's instructions. Most testing brands work in a similar way.

Fifteen minutes after you take the test, you will see either a C or T. A line under the C lets you know the test is working. If there's no line under the C, you will need to take another test.
If the test worked, no line under the T means the test is negative for COVID-19. If there is a line under the T, that means the test is positive for COVID-19 – no matter how light or dark the line is.

Learn more about at-home COVID test instructions and accuracy

Are expired COVID-19 tests accurate?

At-home COVID tests, or rapid tests, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have an expiration date printed on the box or packaging. The FDA does not recommend using an expired test.

However, the expiration dates on some tests have been extended. That's because when manufacturers first released the tests, they printed expiration dates that were pretty conservative. Since then, they've done studies that show the expiration date can be pushed back and extended. That means if the expiration date has been extended, you can use your at-home tests past the date printed on the packaging and they will be accurate.

You can check your tests on this FDA list (under the expiration date column) to see if the expiration date for your at-home COVID-19 test has been extended. You can also see if there is a new expiration date.

UC Davis Health expert explains what you should know about expired COVID tests

Check this FDA list of approved at-home tests to see if your test is expired

Medically reviewed by Dean Blumberg, M.D.