COVID has dominated our lives for the past year . . . but do you know all the symptoms?
The NHS lists the three main signs as a cough, a fever and a loss of sense of smell or taste.
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But one in five people who tests positive for Covid gets none of these symptoms, experts say.
They now believe the illness can cause anything from skin rashes to confusion. The latest is “Covid tongue”. Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London, heads the Covid Symptom Study App, also known as the Zoe app.
His team gathers information about the symptoms people experience and last week Prof Spector took to Twitter warning people to watch out for Covid tongue.
“Seeing increasing numbers of Covid tongues and strange mouth ulcers,” he says.
He urged the public to stay home if they feel unwell, adding that many other symptoms could indicate infection.
The coronavirus is “pretty unique” in creating such a wide range of symptoms.
Prof Spector and Dr Veronique Bataille, a consultant dermatologist at West Hertfordshire NHS Trust, tell what to watch out for.
1. Covid tongue
“ON the Zoe app we are getting lots of anecdotal reports of people with mouth ulcers and sore tongues,” Prof Spector tells Fabulous Daily.
“The tongue itself looks like what is known as geographic tongue, as it looks a little bit like a map. It can be very sore, while for other people it comes and goes.
“It can last a few days or even a few months.”
Of course, it can be a sign of other problems too, but Prof Spector says you should be especially wary if you have other coronavirus symptoms.
He says: “It is associated with other conditions, but if you have the tongue as well as other symptoms, given infection rates are high, it is highly likely you have Covid.”
2. Odd taste and smells
“BACK in May we discovered that a loss of taste or smell might be a sign of Covid – and that was later added to the official symptoms list,” Prof Spector says.
“But while some people don’t experience the loss, they find everything tastes strange.
“It’s often described as a metallic taste in the mouth.
“Some people have even said their own body odour smells strange. They feel like they stink and find it very unpleasant.”
3. Hair loss
“ONE of the rarer symptoms people have reported is hair loss,” Prof Spector explains, saying several app users have flagged it as an issue.
“At the moment, we aren’t sure if it is significant but we are looking into it and it is something we might add in the future.”
Most medics believe the loss people are experiencing is not a result of the virus but the stress of fighting it off. Even people who have not had the virus are reporting hair loss as an issue this year as people battle financial hardship, perhaps the loss of their job and other difficulties stemming from the pandemic.
Hair can fall out after an illness or infection, as these can impact the production of new cells and the creation of proteins in hair follicles.
“SOMETIMES people experience confusion or go delirious after getting Covid,” says Prof Spector.
“This is especially common in older age groups.
“In fact, it may be one of the best predictors of disease among older people and sometimes this is followed by stomach problems or diarrhoea.”
A report analysing data from the Zoe app and published in Age And Ageing said that doctors and carers should be aware of delirium as a possible warning sign, even in the absence of more typical symptoms such as a cough or fever.
A third of people who experienced it did not report the classic symptoms at all and in one fifth, delirium was the only symptom.
5. Pink eye
IN up to three per cent of cases coronavirus can cause conjunctivitis, also known as red or pink eye.
Experts say it tends to occur in later stages of the disease, alongside more classic symptoms such as a cough and fever.
It has been seen most in people with severe symptoms – only 0.7 per cent of those with mild symptoms had it, while three per cent of those with severe symptoms developed conjunctivitis.
Moorfields Eye Hospital in London said that only a handful of patients have reported the symptom and if the virus were to cause someone to develop conjunctivitis, this would likely occur through “direct exposure of the surface of the eye to Covid-19”.
6. Headache and muscle pain
HEADACHE, fatigue and muscle pains are not on the Government list of tell-tale symptoms – but Prof Spector says these are usually the first signs that someone with Covid will experience.
He continues: “It’s very common. Around 80 per cent of people present with headache, fatigue or severe muscle pains on the first day of feeling unwell.
“Despite being common, these have not yet made it on to the official NHS list of symptoms.”
7. Meal skipping
AMONG under-18s, skipping meals could be an important sign of Covid.
Professor Spector claims data from the app shows it is one of five key symptoms in kids. “That’s really important to realise,” he says. Skipping meals, fatigue and headaches are important.”
8. Tummy pain and rash
IN children, a rash and abdominal symptoms such as tummy ache or diarrhoea could be a sign of Covid if they have also had a high temperature for at least three days.
Most children do not become seriously ill with coronavirus and fewer than 1.5 per cent of all hospital admissions have been in people under 20,
But a very small number have developed an unusual condition called PIMS – Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome – which seems to be linked to the virus.
Prof Spector says: “It’s very rare. Some children with it have a rash, some may have abdominal symptoms.
“In all cases the children had a very high temperature for several days as well.”
9. Body rashes
RASHES should be considered a key sign of Covid, according to Dr Bataille, who says nine per cent of all those diagnosed with Covid experience them.
She continues: “From March last year, dermatologists around the world realised they were coming across a lot of rashes. Some had been seen with other viruses but some were very typical to Covid.
“The most common was a papular or erythemato-vesicular rash, which is red and bumpy, a bit like prickly heat, and it could occur anywhere on the body but especially on the hands and knees.
“The second most common was a hive-type rash. This causes raised red patches which may come and go quite quickly and are usually very itchy.”
It is thought the rashes are triggered by the body’s immune response and usually appear after infection, but can occur at any time.
Dr Bataille adds: “For 21 per cent of those who had a rash, they said it was the only symptom they experienced.
“If they hadn’t had the rash, they wouldn’t have known they had the virus.”
10. Covid fingers and toes
“A RASH may appear on either your fingers or toes which looks a little like chilblains or frostbite,” says Dr Bataille, who is also a research fellow at King’s College London.
“It usually appears as reddish or purple-looking bumps at the tops of the toes or on the backs of the fingers.
“The rash can form in little circles and often it feels quite tender.
“In some cases, it is the first sign of infection but in other people we know it appears several months after they had Covid. It is more common in children. Usually this is the sort of rash you’d see in the winter but it stuck out at the time as it didn’t quite fit when dermatologists were seeing it back in March and April.
“That’s how we realised it was linked to Covid.”
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‘I was fit, healthy, and low risk, but I got very poorly’
KIRSTEN Whitehouse thought she had a mild cold last March, just before the first national lockdown was implemented.
A slight cough was the only sign it could be coronavirus, the new threat scientists and medics were scrambling to discover more about at the time.
She says: “It was barely worth mentioning to anyone but I also had a horrible headache that wouldn’t shift.”
A few days later, Kirsten, a 45-year-old personal trainer from St Albans, Herts, noticed her coffee tasted strange.
She says: “Every time I had a sip, it tasted like something was wrong with it. I had a really metallic taste in my mouth. Nothing tasted right.”
At the time, a loss of taste and smell was not recognised as a key symptom.
But five days after her symptoms first appeared, Kirsten’s condition deteriorated rapidly.
She says: “I struggled to breathe and was coughing badly. My airways felt so dry, as if I hadn’t drunk anything in days.
“That’s when I began to suspect I had Covid – a suspicion confirmed later by my GP.”
Two weeks later, Kirsten noticed she had a rash on her body. She recalls: “There were big splodges across my torso, on my front and my back and it was very itchy.”
She was poorly for another six weeks after developing bacterial pneumonia.
Almost a year on, Kirsten still suffers regular flare-ups that affect her breathing and can send her back to bed for days at a time.
She says: “People need to take coronavirus seriously.
“On the face of it, I am very low risk. I’m fit and otherwise healthy but I was very, very poorly.”
‘I was confused, I struggled to finish sentences’
WHEN Rachael Byrne first fell ill a few weeks ago, the only symptom she recognised as being Covid-related was her high temperature.
She says she did not have a cough and never lost her sense of smell or taste.
Rachael, from Milton Keynes, says: “I was going from cold to hot, especially at night, and I had a really bad headache which was blurring my vision.
“I got a rash on my chest and suffered back pain. I was suffering from vertigo, dizziness and feeling sick.”
The 52-year-old mum-of-two, who runs her own business, arranged to have a test as a precaution but did not expect a positive result.
“No one tells you that Covid causes all these other symptoms,” she says.
“I was quite shocked when the results came back positive. It’s hard to describe but I just felt my brain was foggy and I was confused. I was struggling to finish sentences and found it hard to have a conversation. If I was watching a film, it always looked as though the screen was juddering.
“The blurred vision was frightening and it worried me the most.
“After my positive result, someone from the NHS called to go through my symptoms and they described it as altered consciousness.”
Rachael, who lives with her two sons aged 21 and 23, isolated at home and did not pass on the virus.
She warns: “There needs to be more awareness of other Covid symptoms.
“It’s dangerous that people could be passing it on without realising.”
Rachael revealed she is still suffering the after-effects of the virus.
She said: “Fortunately, my sight has returned to normal and the feelings of vertigo and confusion have passed.
“But I still feel exhausted and I think it will take me a while to feel healthy again.”
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