Early Coronavirus Symptoms Include Diarrhea, Loss of Appetite, Says Study

Early symptoms of COVID-19 include diarrhea and other stomach problems, new research shows.

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The coronavirus pandemic has even the most stoic individuals worried about their health these days. Since so many people are now staying home and watching nonstop alarmist news reports, nearly everyone is starting to feel like they might have coronavirus symptoms. With seasonal colds, the flu, and allergies rearing their ugly heads as well, it's hard to know if your symptoms are standard seasonal maladies or the more dangerous novel coronavirus. Now, a new study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology reveals that nearly half of COVID-19 patients first exhibit a very different symptom: digestive issues, like diarrhea.

The study from the Wuhan Medical Treatment Expert Group for COVID-19 looked at 204 patients hospitalized in Wuhan and the wider Chinese province of Hubei. The findings showed that 48.5 percent of patients said their "chief complaint" was digestive symptoms, including diarrhea, upset stomach, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and vomiting.

Among those with digestive symptoms, 84 percent experienced loss of appetite, 29 percent had diarrhea, 0.8 percent experienced vomiting, and 0.4 percent had abdominal pain.

Though respiratory problems are the most common symptoms associated with coronavirus—including a cough and difficulty breathing—3 percent of patients analyzed had digestive symptoms but no respiratory symptoms at all.

While the CDC's list of symptoms includes fever, coughing, and shortness of breath, this new study suggests stomach issues might be an early warning sign to be wary of as well.

"Clinicians must bear in mind that digestive symptoms, such as diarrhea, may be a presenting feature of COVID-19," the investigators with the Wuhan Medical Treatment Expert Group for COVID-19 wrote in their study. "The index suspicion may need to be raised earlier in these cases rather than waiting for respiratory symptoms to emerge."

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