In the midst of a pandemic, people may be concerned about feeling unwell and worry about the cause of their symptoms. Symptoms of COVID-19 typically appear 2–14 days after exposure to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus.

In this article, we discuss how long it takes for symptoms of COVID-19 to appear, what those symptoms are, how to treat them, and when to see a doctor.

A person can develop COVID-19 after contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The virus spreads primarily through saliva droplets or discharge from the nose when a person who has contracted it sneezes or coughs.

Regular and thorough hand washing is effective in helping prevent the spread of illness, and the widespread use of cloth face coverings may also help.

How long do symptoms take to appear?

The incubation period is the time between the exposure to a virus or bacteria and the appearance of symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that symptoms typically appear 2–14 days after exposure.

The findings of 2020 research on 181 confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection suggest that 97.5% of those who are symptomatic will begin to show symptoms within 11.5 days. The researchers also estimate that the mean incubation period for SARS-CoV-2 was 5.1 days.

Although the majority of people develop symptoms within 14 days of getting the virus, in some people, it can take longer. The study authors note that other research has shown that in 101 of every 10,000 individuals who get COVID-19, the incubation period is longer than 14 days.