Eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we know the common symptoms to look out for: Fever, dry cough, fatigue. But as a virus that attacks the entire body, the coronavirus is producing a host of surprisingly widespread—and just plain surprising—symptoms that aren’t getting as much publicity. These are 11 coronavirus symptoms that people haven’t been talking about. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
Diarrhea and Vomiting
They’re not pleasant to contemplate, much less talk about. But gastrointestinal symptoms are a common sign of COVID-19. In fact, it may be the initial or only signal that you’re infected, as was the case for an Australian nurse whose recent diagnosis after reporting abdominal pain caused the government to urge citizens to be aware of the potential red flag. Research from Wuhan, China, found that 50% of COVID-19 patients reported gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting or stomachache.
A new study in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine reported that a 37-year-old man in San Antonio, Texas, developed testicular pain and swelling three days after being diagnosed with coronavirus. The researchers wrote that “several genitourinary complications have been reported” with COVID-19, including blood clotting issues that can cause a prolonged, painful erection.
This potentially alarming COVID symptom was recently spotlighted by actress Alyssa Milano, who posted a photo of her own coronavirus-related hair loss on social media. Experts say this type of shedding, which occurs all over the head, is called telogen effluvium, which can be caused by stress, fever, or illness. Thankfully, another characteristic is that it is temporary.
Ringing in the Ears
The coronavirus can cause dizziness, vertigo and tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, which can linger. “Researchers are looking into a possible connection between COVID-19 and hearing loss,” AARP reported. “Often these issues — which include tinnitus, or ringing in the ears — persist even after other symptoms of the illness subside.”
Dr. Margot Gage, a Texas epidemiologist, recently spoke with NPR about how her own six-month battle with COVID-19 has involved several symptoms that aren’t on the CDC’s official list. One of them: Sun sensitivity. “Going out into the sun for me is really debilitating,” she said. “It’s like I’m allergic to the sun, almost.”
Eye and Vision Problems
“COVID-19 might cause eye problems such as enlarged, red blood vessels, swollen eyelids, excessive watering and increased discharge,” the Mayo Clinic notes. Light sensitivity and irritation are also possible; these symptoms tend to show up in people with severe COVID-19 infections.
You may have heard of the curious case of “COVID toes.” “Younger people with less severe COVID-19 might develop painful, itchy lesions on their hands and feet that resemble chilblains, an inflammatory skin condition,” says the Mayo Clinic, noting that the symptom typically lasts about 12 days.
But people of all ages have reported that their coronavirus infection came with skin changes, such as a red, bumpy rash; hives; or breakouts resembling chicken pox. According to the COVID Symptom Study, these happen in up to 20% of cases. It’s so common, the study’s researchers are urging skin rashes to be named a fourth key sign of COVID-19, along with fever, persistent cough and loss of smell.
“Brain fog,” confusion or the inability to concentrate or focus, has been commonly reported by people with COVID. But because the symptoms are vague or perhaps embarrassing, it’s under-discussed. In August, a study published in the Lancet found than 55% of people diagnosed with coronavirus have neurological symptoms three months after their diagnosis. The researchers warned COVID-19 could cause an “epidemic of brain damage” — the virus seems to cause inflammation in the brain that produces lingering symptoms.
Ongoing chest pain, which can scarily resemble a heart attack, has been reported by people with “long-haul” coronavirus symptoms. It’s caused by costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage that connects ribs to the breastbone.
Thrush occurs when a yeast-like organism called Candida albicans grows in thick white patches over the mouth, tongue and throat. In a recent study of 1,567 COVID patients, 42 reported having long-term issues with thrush. It could be due to COVID’s suppression of the immune system, which allows the yeast—which is naturally present in the body—to grow unchecked.
In August, NBC News reported that doctors treating coronavirus were seeing a surprising symptom in young patients: delirium, or confused thinking and reduced awareness of the environment. Forty percent of hospitalized patients may experience it, but it’s more common in older patients. The virus’s tendency to attack the brain and cause inflammation is likely to blame.
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 37 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.