By now we all know that COVID-19 is a respiratory disease with fever, shortness of breath, and coughing as its most common symptoms. But if that’s all you pay attention to, you might miss some signs—which means you might continue spreading the disease, not realizing you have it, or might delay getting needed care.
Chinese researchers found that, in one group of 204 patients admitted to three hospitals, nearly half had digestive symptoms. And British ear, nose, and throat doctors are warning that loss of the sense of smell or taste may be early signs of coronavirus in otherwise asymptomatic patients.
Nearly 84% of those with digestive symptoms had loss of appetite and 29% had diarrhea. A few patients lacked respiratory symptoms entirely. The patients with digestive symptoms had waited longer after onset to go to the hospital, but that’s not because they weren’t seriously sick. “Patients without digestive symptoms were more likely to be cured and discharged than those with digestive symptoms (60% versus 34%), according to the study published March 18 in the American Journal of Gastroenterology,” CBS News reports.
The loss of smell or taste has been noted in multiple countries, from South Korea to Great Britain to Italy. The British ENTs called for people who experience those symptoms to isolate themselves for seven days to protect others, even in the absence of other symptoms.
Obviously people have digestive issues regularly with many, many reasons beyond coronavirus, so this isn’t in any way a call to race to the emergency room because you’re a little off your feet. But it’s also important to know, to begin with, all the possible symptoms. And people who suddenly lose their sense of smell or taste can use the knowledge to protect others even if they themselves feel mostly fine.
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