Since the last day of December in 2019 (when COVID-19 was first reported) we didn’t know a lot about the virus, how it presents and how it plays out in the body. But experts have done tons more research since then, and while we still don’t have all the answers, we have more than we did before. This includes the list of symptoms associated with the virus.
While the key symptoms remain fever, dry cough, shortness of breath and fatigue – the list has become a lot longer than this. As more people got infected, experts have become aware of the less common symptoms that the public should be aware of.
Let’s take a look at some of the unusual symptoms of COVID-19 that you should be aware of:
Nausea and diarrhoea
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its list of COVID-19 symptoms and it now includes nausea and diarrhoea.
This comes after several studies found links between COVID-19 infection and the onset of these symptoms. One such study, which was one of the first to point out this association in April, was done by researchers from Stanford University.
“A third of the patients we studied had gastrointestinal symptoms,” Dr Alexander Podboy, co-author of the study, said in a statement.
“It’s possible that we may be missing a significant portion of patients sick with the coronavirus due to our current testing strategies focusing on respiratory symptoms alone.”
Loss of taste and smell
A study published in the Wiley Online Library found a link between COVID-19 patients with flu-like symptoms and the loss of taste and smell (chemosensory dysfunction).
“In ambulatory individuals with influenza-like symptoms, chemosensory dysfunction was strongly associated with COVID-19 infection and should be considered when screening symptoms,” the study concluded.
“Most will recover chemosensory function within weeks, paralleling resolution of other disease-related symptoms.”
Loss of taste and smell is also included in the CDC’s recently updated list of COVID-19 symptoms.
Decreased alertness, difficulty concentrating, muscle pain
While not necessarily common, more and more research has suggested that COVID-19 might present with neurological symptoms before anything else. One study published in the journal JAMA looked at 214 patients with COVID-19. They found that 36.4% of them experienced neurological symptoms and these were more common in patients with severe infection.
A more recent study, published in the journal Annals of Neurology, suggested that close to half of hospitalised COVID-19 patients experienced neurological manifestations of the virus.
“SARS-COV-2 infection may present with neurological symptoms initially before any fever, cough or respiratory problems occur,” Dr Igor Koralnik, lead author of the study, said in a statement.
The study’s list of what neurological could be included dizziness, headache, decreased alertness, difficulty concentrating, disorders of smell and taste, seizures, strokes, weakness and muscle pain.
Skin rashes have been labelled an ‘emerging symptom of COVID-19’ by the Cleveland Clinic and while there hasn’t been a lot of research done to look at this link, one study found an association.
The study, done by dermatologists who worked with COVID-19 patients in Italy, found that 20% of the 88 patients they analysed developed skin-related symptoms. Just under half of the patients developed these symptoms only after they were hospitalised.
Some patients developed hives, others chickenpox-like blisters, but the most common skin-related symptoms that the experts saw was an erythematous rash (a patchy red rash).
“This is a first report and a first perspective of SARS-COV-2 cutaneous manifestations [so] indisputably, we need more papers to confirm and better understand skin involvement in COVID-19,” the study concluded.
Here’s the full, updated CDC list of COVID-19 symptoms:
- Fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath (difficulty breathing), fatigue
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Note: According to the CDC, this list does not include all possible symptoms, but they will continue to update it as they learn more about COVID-19.