This Strange Symptom Could Be the Only Sign You Have COVID, Study Says
Even something as benign as this can be a sign of coronavirus.
Normally, having the hiccups is a minor annoyance: yes, they're goofy and occasionally a bit uncomfortable, but otherwise they're utterly harmless—unless, that is, they won't go away. Two recent case studies have demonstrated that in very rare cases, hiccups can actually be an obscure symptom of COVID-19—and they may even be the only sign that something is amiss. Keep reading to learn more, and for more on decoding your COVID symptoms, check out This Is How to Tell If Your Headache Is COVID, Study Says.
The first case study to reach this conclusion, which has yet to be peer reviewed, was published in June. It gave an account of a 64-year-old man whose hiccups persisted for over 72 hours before he went to the emergency room for assistance. After a chest X-ray revealed ground glass opacities—a signature of serious lung diseases, including the novel coronavirus—he tested positive for COVID. His hiccups continued for a total of seven days, but he never developed another visible symptom of coronavirus.
In another case study published in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine in July, the situation played out similarly. In this case, a 62-year-old man had a bout of the hiccups that lasted for four days but no other known symptoms. As the researchers wrote, "his physical examination was otherwise unremarkable." Given a chest X-ray and CT scan, he was found to have ground glass opacities throughout his lungs and tested positive for COVID-19.
As the researchers note, these case studies—however rare—underscore the importance of medical professionals taking all atypical symptoms seriously as possible presentations of coronavirus. "This case report highlights two important issues: first, it stresses the importance of a detailed evaluation in those presenting with hiccups, at a minimum taking a thorough history, physical exam, obtaining basic laboratory work, and getting a chest X-ray," the team behind the July study wrote. "Second, physicians should keep COVID-19 infection on their differential as more cases are discovered through atypical presentations."
Of course, most cases of the hiccups will not turn out to be COVID—you're far more likely to get them from stress, eating or drinking too quickly, swallowing air, or drinking too much alcohol. But if your hiccups do persist for 48 hours, the U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) says it's time to seek medical attention. Read on for some more strange symptoms of COVID you should always take seriously, and to find out if your pain is from coronavirus, check out This Strange Pain Could Be the First Sign You Have COVID, Study Says.
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In an April study published in The British Journal of Dermatology, researchers requested data from all of the dermatologists in Spain regarding COVID patients who had presented with rashes in the prior two weeks. There were a total of 375 cases, which the researchers then divided into five overarching categories of rashes. They found that these were the most frequent occurrences, listed from most to least common:
- Small, flat, or raised bumps
- Red chilblain lesions on the toes and hands
- An itchy rash that looks similar to an irritation from stinging nettle
- Outbreaks of blistering on the upper thigh or limbs
- Necrosis, presenting as a blotchy, net-like pattern
Any sudden onset rash should be taken seriously as a possible symptom of COVID. And for more vital information on COVID symptoms, check out This Is How to Tell If Your Cough Is COVID, Doctors Say.
While most cases of conjunctivitis are bacterial, researchers have also found a connection between COVID and pink eye. As optometrist Alexandra Williamson, OD, recently told the Cleveland Clinic, "Anatomically, the eye is connected to the nasal passages through the nasolacrimal duct, which is where our tears drain into the sinuses. And that connection makes it possible for viruses to cause problems in both places."
"There's a well-demonstrated association between respiratory viral infections and a pink eye-type of appearance," adds Williamson. "Conjunctivitis occurs in viral infections, but there can also be other ocular symptoms like watering or redness since younger kids will rub them because they're irritated." And for more regular COVID updates, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Dizziness is another symptom that people often overlook when it comes to COVID. That's because people are often quick to dismiss this sensation as the "normal" result of dehydration, overexertion, overheating, or low blood sugar. While these are all perfectly likely culprits, it's important to remember that roughly eight in 10 COVID cases present with some sort of neurological symptom—and your dizzy spell might just indicate you've caught COVID. And for more on this coronavirus symptom, check out This Is One of the Most "Easily Overlooked" COVID Symptoms, Experts Warn.
Loss of smell or taste
According to Justin Turner, MD, PhD, associate professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and medical director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Smell and Taste Center, it's not uncommon for patients with viral upper respiratory infections to lose their sense of smell or taste. In a recent Q&A with the university's news portal, he said: "Up to 80 percent of people who test positive for COVID-19 have subjective complaints of smell or taste loss." And for more on where the virus is spreading, check out You're More Likely to Get COVID Here Now Than Ever Before, Research Shows.