If You Have These 2 Subtle Symptoms, There's a Good Chance You Have COVID
A growing body of research shows these symptoms are a clear indicator of coronavirus.
Most COVID symptoms are ambiguous: a cough, fever, or sore throat could yield any diagnosis from the flu to bronchitis. But scientists say that two subtle symptoms are now considered a dead giveaway that you're destined for a COVID test. Those symptoms are ageusia and anosmia: more commonly known as a loss of taste and smell.
One study published this week in Neurology Clinical Practice, a journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that 63 percent of COVID patients admitted to a hospital in Udine, Italy experienced this particular set of symptoms. Among those patients, 22 percent reported that their loss of olfactory senses was the first sign of sickness. Those symptoms lasted for between 25 and 30 days on average.
The researchers were struck both by the rate of occurrence—which represented two thirds of their hospitalized COVID patient population—and the fact that these particular symptoms often surfaced before others.
"Loss of smell and taste are common in people who have COVID-19 infections, and our study found that these symptoms often occur before other symptoms, like fever or shortness of breath," said study author Francesco Bax, M.D.."Because of that, clinicians should consider a patient's loss of smell and taste an early indication of infection, one that is monitored closely while keeping that patient isolated, and possibly quarantined, until a definitive diagnosis can be made. While many people show evidence of COVID-19 infection in the lungs, we found there could be more at play than what a person's lungs can tell us," Bax explained.
Notably, this study was not the only one to notice the significant role of these two symptoms. One recent review of eight studies with a combined total of 11,054 study subjects found that nearly 75 percent of mild or ambulatory patients and 81 percent of severe or hospitalized patients reported a loss of taste or smell. Ultimately, these findings could help identify patients in the early stages of an infection, and prevent further spread while patients are otherwise asymptomatic. Read on for more surprising symptoms to look out for, and for more on the current COVID surge, check out These States Aren't Doing Enough to Fight COVID, White House Warns.
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According to a Stanford Medical report published in the journal Gastroenterology, one third of COVID patients presented with gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or diarrhea. Having collected data from 116 patients who tested positive for the coronavirus during the month of March, the researchers found that nearly 32 percent reported these symptoms, with most describing their case as "mild."
The study reported that twenty-two percent of patients lost their appetites, an additional 22 percent experienced nausea and vomiting, and 12 percent had diarrhea.
"In our current cohort of patients, all patients had respiratory symptoms prior to the development of gastrointestinal symptoms," said Alexander Podboy, MD, co-author of the study. "No patients had gastrointestinal symptoms prior to the development of respiratory symptoms or as their only manifestation of COVID-19."
Conjunctivitis is a surprising symptom of COVID-19 that went overlooked in the early months of the pandemic. One study published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, which analyzed the cases of 216 children with COVID-19, found that 22 percent of cases included "ocular manifestations, including conjunctival discharge, eye rubbing, and conjunctival congestion."
The researchers noted that this was rarely the primary symptom, and was often accompanied by a cough. And for more on decoding COVID symptoms, check out If You Have These 2 COVID Symptoms, You Could End Up in the Hospital.
Though not among the most common symptoms, some COVID patients experience memory loss after a bout of the virus. Aluko Hope, MD, a critical care specialist at Montefiore Hospital in New York City, recently told Wired that roughly "a third" of his COVID patients have struggled with brain fog.
Columbia University's Irving Medical Center supports this anecdotal account with their own: "Over the past two months in New York City, we've seen a trickle of patients who have symptoms that are more serious and persistent compared to, say, the typical brain fog after a sleepless night. Some of these patients are quite young, in their 30s," say representatives of the memory clinic there.
Sure, your exhaustion may be the result of literally everything right now, but it could also indicate a medical condition—and very possibly a COVID-19 diagnosis. After reviewing 148 COVID studies, a June report published in the journal Plos One found that fatigue was the third most commonly reported symptom of coronavirus in lab-confirmed cases.
However, if you're experiencing fatigue alone, there's no need to panic just yet. "If you get more symptoms, so it's not just the fatigue, but fatigue plus body aches plus a cough and a fever, that's worrisome," Andrew Varga, a neuroscientist and physician at the Mount Sinai Integrative Sleep Center recently told The Cut. "Chest tightness alone, fatigue alone—those are less concerning that you're about to become really sick." And for an update on lockdown measures across the U.S., check out These States Are Locking Down Again Amid COVID.