COVID Symptoms to Look Out for: the Common, the Rare, the Severe
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It started with a fever and dry cough.
And then came sore throat and loss of smell.
But there's also breathlessness, diarrhoea, and even stroke?
Is it COVID is or just a passing viral fever?
Where do the symptoms of COVID begin, and where do they end?
Many, especially young healthy individuals, may experience no symptoms at all, but in others, a combination of different symptoms can manifest in different degrees.
These known patterns of symptoms have further changed in the second wave—with younger people, especially children, being affected with symptomatic illness, and a larger number experiencing gastrointestinal issues.
Here are all the old and new, common and rare covid symptoms you should be aware of.
The Most Common Symptoms
Fever, sore throat and dry cough have been listed as the most common, and earliest symptoms of COVID-19 by health authorities across the world.
These were the first symptoms associated with COVID to be recognised back in December 2020, and continues to the be the most widely reported symptoms across the world.
Other fairly common symptoms that were subsequently added to the official list of symptoms by the World Health Organisation (WHO) include,
- Body ache
- Loss of taste or smell
In June 2020, loss of smell and taste were first added to the symptoms of COVID-19 infection. And these symptoms are so common among patients of COVID that they came to define the illness, often being used to diagnose it.
According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), these symptoms are usually mild, and escalate gradually.
Telling COVID From Other Infections
In a previous article, Dr Anshu Rohatgi, Senior Consultant, Neurology Department at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi told FIT, "Just the loss of taste and smell is not good enough reason to self-isolate. These symptoms are commonly seen in other influenza and flu for various reasons."
This is also true from other common symptoms, like sore throat and cough that, that overlap with other infections.
This is the reason why the order of the onset of these symptoms has also been closely watched by experts.
A recognisable pattern in the onset of COVID could further help distinguish a COVID-19 infection from a common cold or the flu.
A study published in the journal, Frontiers in Public Health, points to how, while influenza typically begins with a cough, the first symptom of COVID-19 is fever.
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should get tested if you develop a fever, followed by one or more of the other mentioned symptoms and have taken part in any activity that has put you at risk of being within 6 feet (for 15 minutes) of someone who may be infected.
Symptoms You May Miss
Over the course of the past few months, as we have come to understand the infection and its manifestations better, different studies have found patterns of other symptoms associated with the illness.
These include skin rashes, the inability to stay awake, nausea, vomiting, and a loss of appetite, among others.
According to the CDC, some people may also notice blue-coloured skin, lips, or nail beds.
Furthermore, because the infection primarily affects the lungs, there is also a chance of it causing other related complications due to lack of oxygen supply, including seemingly unrelated cardiovascular complications.
New Symptoms Caused by New Variants?
Apart from children being affected with symptomatic illness this time around experts have also noticed higher instances of stomach issues among patients of COVID.
Speaking to FIT, Dr Om Srivastava, infectious diseases specialist, Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai, explains,
“Last year we had a bigger preponderance of lung involvement. This year there has been a bigger preponderance of gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting, and also symptoms involving the heart.Dr Om Srivastava, Infectious Diseases Specialist, Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai
"This could be indicative of the involvement of a new variant. But it is still too soon to say this for sure. Further genomic studies need to be done to establish a variant is involved in this," he adds.
Ring the Alarm Bells if...
...any of the above listed symptoms turn severe, says the MoHFW.
Other than that, the WHO also strongly advices getting immediate medical help if you experience the following serious symptoms.
- Shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest
- Loss of speech or movement
Some other rare but serious symptoms include,
Inability to wake up or stay awake
Lumps under the skin
In some severe cases, COVID can also lead to abnormal blood clots that can be life-threatening. This can also lead to the patient having a stroke, even if their other outwardly symptoms are mild.
Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) give the following guidelines to manage COVID depending on the intensity of the symptoms and severity of the illness.
(Photo: MoHFW)Prevention Is Still the Best Medicine
There is no known cure or treatment for COVID-19 except intensive care.
Given that we can't be absolutely certain of how serious the infection's manifestation may be, and the long term symptoms still largely being a mystery to us, prevention still remains the most prudent path one can take.
The WHO recommends maintaining at least 1 metre distance between you and people coughing or sneezing.
Recent studies also point to COVID being airborne which means that breathing the same air as an infected person (symptomatic or otherwise) can spread the infection, even if they don’t cough or sneeze.
The risk of infection is higher indoors than it is outdoors, which is why experts also recommend keeping your homes well ventilated.
Get vaccinated when you’re able to, continue maintaining hand hygiene, avoid touching your face, avoid going out in public when not necessary, stay masked up when you do, and follow the social distancing guidelines.
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