United Kingdom

NHS urged to recognise 'Covid tongue' as official sign of the disease

Professor Tim Spector, from King's College London, said he's seeing an increasing number of infected patients with sores on their tongue and unusual mouth ulcers

The NHS is being urged to recognise 'Covid tongue' as an official symptom of coronavirus amid fears it is becoming more widespread. 

Professor Tim Spector, from King's College London, said he's seeing an increasing number of infected patients with sores on their tongue and unusual mouth ulcers and swollen tongues.

The epidemiologist, who is monitoring the UK crisis through his Covid symptom tracker app used by millions of Brits, warned one in five sufferers show symptoms the NHS doesn't recognise.

Professor Spector warned 20 per cent of infectious people may be slipping through the cracks and continuing to spread the disease because of it. 

The NHS currently only lists three signs of the infection — a fever, continuous cough and loss of smell or taste. It suggests only people with these three symptoms may have Covid-19 and therefore should self-isolate and get tested. 

This means Britons suffering from the virus' less common symptoms are not getting access to swabs and may be continuing to pass the virus to others. 

The UK has repeatedly been accused of playing catch up with the rest of the world when it comes to spotting Covid-19 throughout the crisis.

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns of 11 primary symptoms, including fatigue, body aches, headache, sore throat and shortness of breath — but admits the virus can cause an array of other side effects.

He is urging the NHS to recognise 'Covid tongue' as an official symptom of coronavirus amid fears it is becoming more widespread.

The UK has been accused of missing 'the majority' of Covid-19 cases because it still only recognises three tell-tale signs of the infection (the NHS website, shown)

The medical name for acute swelling of the tongue as the result of a viral infection is 'glossitis'. Professor Spector tweeted about the symptom last week.

He said: 'One in five people with Covid still present with less common symptoms that dont get on the official PHE list - such as skin rashes. 

'Seeing increasing numbers of Covid tongues and strange mouth ulcers. If you have a strange symptom or even just headache and fatigue stay at home!'

He added today: 'Keep those Covid tongue pics coming - important to draw attention to these, skin rashes, Covid toes and the 20 plus other symptoms of Covid that go ignored.

'Thirty-five per cent of people have non-classic symptoms in the first three days when most infective.'

Professor Spector has repeatedly called for the NHS to expand its list - which he described as the 'briefest in the world' - to ensure Covid-19 infections are spotted in the early stages - reducing the risk of it being spread as Britons self-isolate earlier.

Professor Spector is drawing attention to the Covid tongue symptom of the virus

'We're still missing 35 per cent of cases that have symptoms that aren't in the NHS 111 list which is the briefest list in the world,' he told MailOnline.

He added that anyone using the Covid-19 symptom app can get a test for the virus if they're suffering any symptom, rather than just the NHS-identified ones. 

Analysis of NHS hospital records show a cough, fever and shortness of breath are the three most common symptoms, with seven out of 10 patients suffering at least one of the three.  

But up to a third of patients also experience respiratory problems, stomach pains and musculoskeletal symptoms — including muscle and joint pain, and fatigue.  

Professor Spector told MailOnline today: 'We are collecting many anecdotal reports of COVID tongue via the ZOE app and it is associated with Long COVID patients. 

'We need more analyses before we can put some numbers on how common it is and how predictive it is of COVID. 

'Until then, unusual tongue symptoms are likely to suggest COVID while the virus is still common.' 

However, red and white patches can also be caused by other infections, including thrush, according to British Dental Association spokesman Professor Damien Walmsley. 

'The white patches usually rub off, leaving a sore red patch underneath,' he said.

But sore patches are often only an indication that a person is run down and their immune system is not firing on all cylinders, he added.

'It could also occur in those who have been taking antibiotics, or using asthma inhalers.' 

Single white patches on the tongue 'can be a bit more worrying,' according to Professor Walmsley.

It could simply be down to the fact the tongue is rubbing against a tooth or filling and being irritated, but there's a small chance it could indicate oral cancer.  

A localised white patch or red patch which has been there for more than three weeks should be checked out by your dentist or GP, the expert said.


Professor Spector and researchers from King's College London have developed a symptom-tracking app which has seen millions of Britons sign up and report their symptoms. 

The full list of symptoms, in order of how predictive they are of the disease, include:

1. Loss of smell/taste

2. Persistent cough

3. Fatigue

4. Loss of appetite

5. Skin rash

6. Hives

7. Fever

8. Severe muscle pain

9. Shortness of breath

10. Diarrhoea

11. Delirium

12. Abdominal pain

13. Chest pain

14. Hoarse voice

15. Eye soreness

16. Sore or painful throat

17. Nausea or vomiting

18. Headache

19. Dizziness or light headedness

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