When COVID first started making news, the symptoms seemed to be fairly straightforward: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. While those are still the primary indicators of coronavirus, a number of other lesser-known symptoms have begun to emerge in some patients. Here are a few of the lesser-known symptoms to look out for:
Loss of smell and taste
From early on, there was anecdotal evidence that some COVID patients were losing their senses of smell and taste. But, in recent days, these sensory losses have begun to emerge as telltale signs of the virus.
A study at UC San Diego Health showed that about 68% of COVID-19-positive patients said they experienced smell loss and 71% reported taste loss.
While losing your sense of smell or taste can be alarming… the good news is that patients seem to be getting them back after recovery. In fact, more than 70 % of patients in the UC San Diego test regained their sense of smell and taste within about 2 to 4 weeks from the time they’d recovered from the infection.
Dizziness and confusion
Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to symptoms of dizziness or confusion. Because older bodies respond differently to illness, the first symptom of COVID in seniors may be a general sense that something is off. They might sleep more than usual, stop eating, or seem disoriented. Sometimes, seniors stop speaking or simply collapse. Any change of behavior in older adults warrants a call to a medical professional.
Doctors have been noticing that a sizable percentage of COVID-19 patients develop clots in their legs, even while they’re on blood thinners. Some doctors have even reported trouble with dialysis machines because clots in the COVID patients’ blood clog the machine tubing. Scientists aren’t sure if the virus is directly causing the clotting or if the clots are a result of an immune attack that sometimes becomes self-directed.
Blood clots have become so prevalent that some scientists are beginning to suspect that COVID is a disease of the blood vessel lining (endothelium), and not primarily a lung disease. Mandeep Mehra, MD, medical director of the Brigham and Women’s Heart and Vascular Center in Boston co-authored a study which suggests that, while the infection starts in the lungs (because breathing is the easiest way for the virus to enter the body), it doesn’t stop there. After it infects the lung cells and begins to destroy them, it travels into the bloodstream, infecting the endothelial cells and leading to a number of other health issues.
Strokes and seizures
Recently, an alarming number of young people in their 30’s and 40’s have been dying from strokes. Researchers suspect that the blood clots that often accompany COVID may be causing the uptick in deadly strokes.
Because younger people are not generally at high risk for strokes, they may not recognize the symptoms. But, with the increased risk due to COVID, everyone should become more aware of the warning signs. The good news is that most large strokes are very treatable if caught early.
The CDC lists these as the most common symptoms.
Signs of stroke
Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
Sudden severe headache with no known cause
While most of us think of COVID as a respiratory issue, there are some patients whose only symptoms of the virus may be digestive issues. In fact, nearly 20% of COVID-positive patients suffered from gastrointestinal issues… most commonly diarrhea.
People with exclusively digestive symptoms are less likely to seek medical help and may unknowingly pass the virus. Please call your doctor for any unexplained digestive issues.
Pediatricians have noticed that a number of children coming in for small, purple-colored lesions on their toes. Sometimes these patients go on to develop other symptoms of COVID. Scientists are not yet certain that the lesions are related to COVID, but the fact that there has been such a large increase in the condition is cause for suspicion that “COVID toes” may be an early indicator of the disease.
A recent report on heart problems among coronavirus patients in Wuhan, China, found that 20 percent of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 had some evidence of heart damage. Many of these patients had no known underlying heart conditions. Researchers have several theories as to why COVID patients are showing heart damage, but none of them are conclusive as of yet.
As the information continues to be updated, it’s important that you heed your state’s stay-at-home orders, follow the hygiene recommendations, and keep your immune system strong. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and clean air and surfaces are all important tools to help keep you and your family healthy.