Coronavirus disease, COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2 sucks, as we experienced ourselves recently! It is best to avoid getting it if you can.

When a close family member first contracted it in late 2021/early 2022 despite being triply vaccinated, we were extremely anxious and worried. One factor contributing to our anxiety was that we did not know what to expect and how the illness would progress over the following days. In particular, we did not know when to expect the most severe symptoms. However, after witnessing how the COVID-19 infections progressed in three close family members over the last half a year (all fully vaccinated and boosted and who took great care wearing masks and social distancing), we have a reasonable understanding of what to expect. This makes catching the disease a mentally much less scary experience.

This blog post aims to document in journal style how the disease progressed so that we have a record for future cases and so that others also get to know what to expect.

Disease progression

The below progression of the COVID-19 disease is accurate for a 30 - 40-year-old otherwise healthy person who received two doses of vaccine and a booster shot about six months before the outbreak of the infection. The coronavirus variant was most likely the most prevalently circulating one in the United Kingdom at the time of infection, either Omicron B.1.1.529 BA.1 or BA.2. The progression will likely be more severe for unvaccinated, older individuals or those with pre-existing health conditions.

Day -1: I had a slight headache and was somewhat tired, but not significantly more than usual. Drank more fluids to compensate for potential slight dehydration. No obvious indication of an illness at this point.

Day 0: Felt unusually tired in the evening. The eyes seemed slightly sore as if from long hours of working. Had difficulties concentrating and focussing on conversations earlier that day. Went to sleep early and slept a total of ~10 hours.

Day 1: The exhaustion on the previous day felt strange. Therefore decided to take a coronavirus test just to be sure. Did not feel obviously ill at that point. Tested positive for COVID-19 as indicated by a rapid flow test. A second rapid test a few hours later confirmed the infection. Both test lines were extraordinarily faint and transparent and did not develop until ~10 - 15 minutes into the test. Certainly not right away. Indeed, we initially thought that the test was negative. I immediately self-isolated in a separate room, prepared to quarantine for several days. This is where I would have my meals and stay most of the time. Sore and red throat. Stayed in bed and rested most of the day. Mild fever in the evening. Sweating.

Day 2: Rested most of the day in bed. Developed coughing and an intense headache. Runny nose and somewhat congested at the same time. Eyes were slightly irritated by bright lights, such as computer screens or mobile phones. Towards the evening developed a mild fever again. Shivering. Feeling cold. Mild body aches. Generally felt like a mild influenza infection.

Day 3: Rapid flow test indicated COVID-19 infection immediately after 2 - 3 seconds. The test showed a strong and thick indication line. Strong coughing. Runny and stuffy nose. Sweating. Felt better during the morning and early afternoon. Continued coughing. Irritated and itchy eyes. Mild fever and exhaustion during the evening. Eyes were very sore.

Day 4: Intense coughing in the morning. Ears blocked. Headache. Neck pain. Felt dizzy. Sneezing. Rested in bed for a few hours. Increased dizziness. The coughing seemed to have become deeper, as if originating further down the lungs. Slight chest aches, most likely from the intense coughing over the last few days.

Day 5: Could not sleep during the night. Laid awake for many hours. Continued coughing through the night. Had slight anxiety as breathing sometimes felt more challenging. COVID-19 rapid test in the morning turned positive after a few seconds with a regular thick indicator line. Coughing was less in the morning. The nose was still mostly blocked. Secondary effects from resting were apparent, such as neck, shoulder, and back pain and tiredness from not sleeping properly. Was appreciably tired after easy physical exercise, such as walking up the stairs. Felt better during the day, but again tired and warm in the evening. Coughing reduced. Throat felt as if congested, slightly harder to breathe.

Day 6: Slept well. Woke up feeling reasonably good. Much reduced coughing. Nose still blocked, but significantly less than before. The first time that I could focus on easy work for a few hours. Back and chest aches, probably from coughing and resting over the last days. Appreciably tired when doing physical tasks. Breathing felt a little tight at times.

Day 7: Slept OK. Still slightly tired in the morning. The rapid flow test was still positive. It took tens of seconds for the indicator line to become visible. The line was slightly thinner than at the previous times. Slight coughing and nose blocked. Ears blocked slightly, too, as a consequence of the cold. Felt tired but otherwise reasonably OK given the circumstances. Sneezing. Mild nose bleeds, probably caused by regular cleaning.

Day 8: COVID-19 rapid flow test in the morning was still positive. The indicator line was thinner and fainter, and it took several minutes to become visible. Mild coughing and nose blocked. Otherwise felt good in the morning. Was tired but otherwise felt decently OK. Could already do some simple housework. Coughing, sneezing and blocked nose.

Day 9: The morning rapid flow test was still positive. The indicator line was extremely faint and thin (lighter than on day 1). It properly developed only after a few minutes. Felt tired but OK in the morning. Mild coughing and sneezing. Nose blocked. Could work a little bit. Went to the park for the first time, taking great care not to walk too close to other people. Felt pretty exhausted afterwards.

Day 10: End of the officially-mandated quarantine period. Could leave my self-isolation. Felt OK in the morning. Slept reasonably well. A rapid flow test in the morning was still faintly positive. The indicator line took several minutes to develop and was extraordinarily faint and transparent. Definitely less visible than on days 1 and 9. Very mild coughing. Nose blocked. Tired. Could ride my bike again for the first time.

Day 11: Felt tired in the morning. A rapid flow test showed an extremely faint hint of an indicator line that only developed after several minutes. Nose blocked and itching. Went out for a longer bike ride for the first time. Slightly tired afterwards.

Day 12: Rapid flow test showed a faint line again in the morning. Surprisingly, the indicator line was thicker and more visible than on day 11. It took several minutes to develop. Generally felt good in the morning but was still somewhat tired. Still mild coughing and sneezing. Felt good overall.

Day 13: A COVID-19 rapid flow test (different brand!) in the late afternoon was negative. Felt good the whole day.

Day 14: Strong coughing in the morning. A rapid flow test (same brand as on day 13) was negative. Felt quite tired.

Overall, the initial recovery seems to take about 10 to 12 days in our experience. Leaving the quarantine after five/seven days and two consecutive negative rapid flow tests (i.e. testing oneself free), as allowed in the UK, seems quite impossible. The rapid flow tests stayed positive for at least ten days after first identifying the infection, from our experience. The reduced quarantine duration could perhaps apply in the mildest cases or if the disease gets diagnosed with a delay, i.e. you fail to recognise it on day 1.

Medication taken: Aspirin tablets that included vitamin C and nasal spray.