While coronavirus is widely known to cause serious respiratory complications, new research reveals that it can have some surprising—and potentially serious—symptoms elsewhere in the body, as well. According to a new review of research published in Abdominal Radiology, there are three potentially serious digestive symptoms associated with COVID infections that may be mistaken for other ailments. Read on to discover which dangerous COVID symptoms you can't afford to ignore. And if you want to keep yourself safe, check out The 4 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID During the Current Wave.
Upon reviewing 36 studies on coronavirus published between March 31 and July 15, 2020, researchers from the University of Alberta's Department of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging found that 18 percent of COVID patients experienced digestive symptoms, with 16 percent of coronavirus patients experiencing exclusively gastrointestinal symptoms. While the majority of COVID patients with related digestive issues experienced common symptoms, like loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, a small proportion experienced bowel inflammation, air in the bowel wall, and bowel perforation.
While the Mayo Clinic reports that bowel inflammation can present with symptoms common to other digestive conditions, including fatigue, abdominal pain, unintentional weight loss, lack of appetite, diarrhea, and blood in the stool, the other two symptoms can have serious—and even deadly—outcomes.
Air in the bowel wall—also known as pneumatosis intestinalis—can present with a distended abdominal area, pain, diarrhea, and blood in the stool, according to a 2018 study published in BMC Gastroenterology.
Bowel perforations, on the other hand, can present with fever, chills, severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and, if the contents of your digestive tract leak outside of your intestines, can lead to sepsis, a potentially deadly response to infection. While these symptoms may be frightening, COVID isn't the only potential culprit behind them. "Seeing these things is not necessarily telling us a patient has COVID-19. It could be from a variety of potential causes," though they should still be investigated by medical professionals, Mitch Wilson, MD, one of the study's co-authors, said in a statement.
Those are far from the only surprising COVID symptoms you might develop, however—read on to discover which potentially serious coronavirus symptoms you could easily mistake for something else. And if you're concerned you may have been exposed to coronavirus, be aware that This Strange Symptom May Be the Earliest Sign You Have COVID, Study Says.
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Delirium—defined as a "serious disturbance in mental abilities" often causing confusion—is a serious COVID symptom that often appears shortly after infection. A 2020 review of research published in the HSOA Journal of Clinical Immunology and Immunotherapy found that 84 percent of COVID patients in a French study presented with neurological symptoms, including delirium. Researchers noted that these changes may be related to a lack of oxygen to the brain or inflammation of neurons in the brain due to coronavirus. And if you want to protect yourself, know that This Surprising Supplement Can Cut Your COVID Risk, New Study Says.
Changes to your sense of taste and smell
While the loss of taste and smell are commonly reported symptoms of COVID, there's yet another way your olfactory system may be affected by the virus. In some cases, individuals with coronavirus will smell or taste unpleasant flavors when they eat, including the scents of gasoline or rotting food. And for more on your sense of smell and coronavirus, check out If You Can't Smell These 2 Things, You May Have COVID.
If you've noticed a web-like rash on your skin, it's time to high-tail it to the doctor for a COVID test. According to an Oct. 2020 study of COVID "long-haulers"—individuals who experience symptoms for 60 days or more—100 percent of COVID-positive individuals who experienced retiform purpura, a web-like skin rash, were eventually hospitalized. And for more up-to-date COVID news delivered to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
While worrying about your COVID risk can definitely cause you to toss and turn, the virus itself may cause more than a few sleepless nights. According to the Survivor Corps Facebook group, which catalogs coronavirus symptoms and provides support for COVID survivors, more than 1,500 individuals recovering from the virus said they found themselves struggling with persistent difficulty sleeping. And for more on where people should be concerned about the virus, find out How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.