By now, most of us are well aware of COVID-19’s most common symptoms —a dry cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, and new loss of sense of smell. We have also heard about bizarre skin rashes, COVID toes, and even conjunctivitis (aka pink eye). But there are a few brand new signs and symptoms of the highly infectious and potentially deadly disease that doctors have been discovering you need to know about.
With this bizarre symptom, surprising even doctors who have been treating patients for decades, an individual may be suffering a severe COVID lung infection and extremely low oxygen levels—and report no breathing problems whatsoever. In an op-ed for the New York Times describing the phenomenon, Richard Levitan, MD, explained that most patients with the condition reported being sick for a week or so with fever, cough, upset stomach and fatigue, “but they only became short of breath the day they came to the hospital,” he maintained. “Their pneumonia had clearly been going on for days, but by the time they felt they had to go to the hospital, they were often already in critical condition.”
Blood Clotting and Strokes
One sometimes deadly symptom of COVID-19 has to do with abnormal blood clotting. “The autopsy of COVID patients suggests microemboli (small clots) in different organs that explain some of the organ dysfunction in these patients,” Hamid Mojibian, MD, a Yale Medicine interventional radiologist who specializes in image-guided cardiac procedures, explains. “COVID patients have a higher risk of forming arterial blood clots that can be extremely dangerous.”
Depending on where the clot forms or migrates to can determine how dangerous it can be. “All organs in our body depend on blood carried through the arterial system for functioning correctly. Any interruption of blood supply may result in severe consequences,” he explains. There have been reports of clots in the aorta, renal arteries (causes renal infarction), legs (causing black foot and gangrene), but the most devastating of all are clots in the brain blood vessels that can cause a stroke—even in younger people.
Kawasaki Syndrome-like Illness
On May 6, New York state officials issued an advisory explaining that 64 children in the state had been hospitalized with a bizarre condition doctors were describing as “pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome.”
“There are reports now of children presenting with a systemic inflammatory syndrome associated with COVID-19 that clinically resembles another childhood inflammatory process, Kawasaki Disease,” explains Thomas Murray, MD, a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious disease doctor who is an associate professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine. Examples of symptoms parents should watch out for include prolonged high fever, red eyes, rash, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhea. Typically, these occur several days after the initial infection.
New research claims that many COVID patients may not suffer respiratory symptoms at all, and instead suffer gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. While early research found that less than 4% of COVID-19 patients had gastrointestinal symptoms, more recent studies have found the rate to be closer to 11%, while others claim it could be as high as 60%.
Malaise, Confusion, or Delirium
Fatigue is a well-known symptom of COVID-19, but in some people, primarily seniors, disorientation, delirium, and severe confusion has been reported. In clinical guidelines published by The University of Lausanne Hospital in the Revue Medicale Suisse they maintain that falls and delirium can accompany fevers and digestive issues. Joseph R. Berger, a professor of neurology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, believes that this psychiatric symptom could be due to the “silent hypoxia” explained above—a lack of oxygen in the brain due to low levels in the blood. “The brain … cannot withstand low levels of oxygen,” Berger told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “When the brain is not getting enough oxygen, the patient suffers from hypoxia, which can change the way they think.”
Weakness and Dehydration
According to CNN: “Dr. Sam Torbati, medical director of the Ruth and Harry Roman Emergency Department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, describes treating seniors who initially appear to be trauma patients but are found to have Covid-19. ‘They get weak and dehydrated,’ he said, ‘and when they stand to walk, they collapse and injure themselves badly.’ Torbati has seen older adults who are profoundly disoriented and unable to speak and who appear at first to have suffered strokes. ‘When we test them, we discover that what’s producing these changes is a central nervous system effect of coronavirus,’ he said.”
According to the WHO, most people with mild cases of COVID-19 recover within two weeks, while more severe infections can take 3-6 weeks to subside. However, according to new reports out of New York, there are many people past the 30-day mark who have since tested negative, still reporting coronavirus symptoms.
One woman, Kerri Noeth, was on day 36, telling ABC7NY that she’s been to the ER twice since the 14-day mark with odd lingering symptoms including a “burning and tingling” across her chest and neck paired with a hot flash in addition to “a wide range of lingering symptoms, particularly heart palpitations, and extreme discomfort in my chest and in my ribs.”
Susan Silverman, on day 38, told the outlet she is still suffering from a loss of sense and smell as well as a “sore arm, vertigo, all these things are not totally tied into a respiratory disease.”
What Should You Do?
If you are experiencing these or any of the more traditional coronavirus symptoms, contact your medical professional immediately, particularly if you are at “severe risk.” According to the CDC, “those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are:
- People 65 years and older
- People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- People who have chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma; serious heart conditions; who are immunocompromised; with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher); with diabetes; with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis; and with liver disease.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.