In the last year, COVID-19 has caused some common symptoms, and some not-so-common ones
COVID Catch-up is a new weekly column featuring Lansing Journal journalist Carrie Steinweg’s personal experience with COVID-19 and things she learned from others who shared their experiences. Subscribe today to make sure you don’t miss any COVID Catch-ups. Last week’s column is available here.
By Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (February 3, 2021) – Over the past 10-plus months there has been continually-changing information in regards to COVID-19 recommendations as health officials and researchers learn more about the disease.
When we were in the early days of the pandemic, there was an emphasis on hand-washing and not touching the eyes after touching surfaces or other items. We were wiping down groceries and packages with antibacterial wipes, but not yet wearing masks. Now, nearly a year later, hand washing is still important, but mask-wearing is stressed over everything else. And back then we were led to believe that if we didn’t get within a six-feet perimeter of someone with the virus, we were pretty safe. Now we know that droplets can travel through the air beyond six feet.
Many common symptoms
Other information has been updated as time has gone on. But one area where there hasn’t been many updates is symptoms. The CDC’s website, cdc.gov, has the same list of symptoms that has been there for months, even as there are a huge assortment of other reported symptoms affecting those who have tested positive for the virus.
It is apparent that the virus affects individuals differently. Some people test positive and are asymptomatic and don’t realize the virus has hit them until they get a positive test result. Others have mild symptoms. And yet others experience intense symptoms. Some people can cross one or two off the CDC’s list and others can check them all off and more. For some, a symptom may last just a day or two. For others, now termed “long haulers,” symptoms can last weeks or months and it’s unknown when, or if, they will subside.
A list of 11 symptoms on cdc.gov covers the most common ones, but it doesn’t include many other physical and mental abnormalities that are being reported by COVID-19 patients. According to the CDC, symptoms may appear 2–14 days after exposure to the virus. Some are symptoms that could also be present with other ailments, like the common cold or influenza, among them a cough or congestion, making it hard to know if you have the virus without confirmation through testing.
Unusual symptoms and conditions
Missing on the CDC’s list are a slew of unusual symptoms that have been getting a little more attention. Mayo Clinic’s website features an article titled “Unusual coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms: What are they?” Listed are loss of appetite, skin rashes on the feet or hands (sometimes called COVID toes), confusion, eye problems (enlarged, red blood vessels, swollen eyelids, excessive watering, and increased discharge), sensitivity to light, and others.
Summahealth.org reports five “uncommon symptoms that you should be aware of that fall outside COVID-19’s hallmark symptoms.” While loss of taste and smell and diarrhea and vomiting top the list (and are also on the CDC’s list), the other lesser known symptoms included are skin legions; confusion, dizziness or other neurological symptoms; and blood clots.
At healthline.com, there are similar warnings of symptoms that can accompany COVID-19, such as muscle weakness, delirium and cardiovascular complications. The website notes that dermatologists in Italy have found that roughly 20 percent of COVID-19 patients had skin symptoms. Another article cited a UK study which showed that nearly 20 percent of COVID-19 patients developed a mental health issue like depression, anxiety, or dementia within three months of diagnosis. Those who had developed COVID-19 were two times at greater risk for developing a mood or anxiety disorder for the first time and older adults had a two to three times greater risk of developing dementia.
This week a British researcher revealed that a large number of infected individuals are complaining of tongue discoloration or enlargement, or other mouth problems. It’s now being called “COVID tongue.”
An online AARP article from November named hallucinations, hearing loss, and high blood sugar as other additional unusual symptoms. Happy hypoxia, Myocarditis, hives, and Chickenpox-like sores are ones that Embry’s Women’s Health warns patients to look out for.
One dermatologist in New York reported at least a 25 percent increase in patients coming in for hair loss after having COVID-19 and the increase started last year about six weeks after the stay-at-home orders were initiated. It’s a common complaint among long-haulers and some doctors are attributing it to the stress associated with having the virus, a temporary condition known as telogen effluvium.
Myalgia is another condition linked to COVID-19, defined by Johns Hopkins University as “muscle aches and pain, which can involve ligaments, tendons and fascia, the soft tissues that connect muscles, bones, and organs.”
Insomnia and sleep disruption has been mentioned by “The Atlantic,” which notes that COVID-19 can “alter the delicate processes within our nervous system” and result in a “newfound inability to sleep.”
As we learn more about the symptoms that can be an early hint that you may have been stricken with the virus, we also learn more about the symptoms that don’t seem to be going away for a lot of people.
“Brain fog” is a long-hauler disturbance that has been reported by some after the initial period of illness has passed. So is nerve pain. And extreme fatigue. And loss of libido. And burning skin. And weight gain. And changes in eyesight. And loss of energy. And increased heart rate. And vitamin deficiencies. And increased sweating. And tooth pain. And earaches and ear pressure. And non-stop exhaustion. And loss of strength. And shortness of breath. And debilitating headaches.
Symptoms of COVID-19 prove to be more varied and widespread the longer we face this pandemic. And there’s still more to learn.
This week’s COVID Catch-up: When a food writer can’t taste (January 27, 2021)
This week’s COVID Catch-up: How the virus affected me (January 20, 2021)