COVID-19 Resources

From Mild to Critical: COVID-19 Symptoms and Treatments

Apr. 23, 2020

Senu Apewokin, MD, UC Health infectious disease specialist and associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, explains what patients and families can expect with each severity level of COVID-19.

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses were discovered in the early 1960s, and are known primarily to cause respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases. They were given the name “corona” because the virus resembles a crown, and “corona” is Latin for the crown.

The “19” in COVID-19 represents 2019, the year the virus was discovered and differs from other coronaviruses because of its ability to enter human cells more easily.

COVID-19 Symptoms and Treatments

(*Note: The list below is not a comprehensive list. Other symptoms and treatments may apply.)

One or more of the following:

  • Loss of smell/taste
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Other


  • Tylenol to manage the fever.


One or more of mild symptoms, plus:

  • Shortness of breath


  • Tylenol to manage the fever.


One or more of mild and serious symptoms, plus:

  • Inability to maintain adequate oxygen levels.

No proven treatments for COVID-19, although several treatments are being considered by many clinicians, including:

  • Hydroxychloroquine. Used to treat malaria, lupus erythematosus, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Azithromycin. Used to treat respiratory infections, ear infections, eye infections, skin infections, and sexually transmitted diseases.


One or more of mild, serious, and severe symptoms.

Same treatments as other severities. Other treatments being considered or tested are:

  • Tocilizumab. Used to treat rheumatoid arthritis   
  • Convalescent sera. Blood products (plasma) obtained from someone who has overcome COVID-19.
  • Remdesivir. An antiviral agent.
  • Mechanical ventilation (a form of life support used when someone is unable to breathe on their own) may be required if respiratory failure occurs.

According to the World Health Organization, 80% of infections are mild, 15% severe and 5% are critical requiring ventilation.

Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky should feel comfort in knowing that UC Health is at the forefront of the fight to overcome this pandemic.

“We are conducting research to better understand and treat the virus, and our clinical operations have been revamped to cater to the surge of cases we will witness,” explains Dr. Apewokin.


What can you do?

Follow these five steps to stay AWARE during COVID-19, and help prevent this disease from spreading:

  • Avoid crowds; keep at least 6 feet between you and others.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you don’t have soap and water, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Advance notice; call your doctor before showing up at a primary care office, urgent care center, or Emergency Department.
  • Remain home if you feel you don’t need immediate medical attention and if you have the option to work from home.
  • Elbow cough or sneeze rather than into the air or onto your hands.