It’s become clear that this pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. Most of you are aware of the precautions you need to take in order to protect yourself from the virus. (If you have any questions, the CDC website outlines the precautions you should be taking).
Now, most of all, you should stay at home unless absolutely necessary. While you’re self-isolating in your home, it’s easy to start worrying about whether any new or odd symptoms you develop are related to the virus, or whether they’re just typical stuff.
We’re finding out more about this virus every day, even now, so it’s important that you know about some of the lesser-known symptoms of the infection. Fever and a dry, persistent cough are the main signs. Also, we now know that red eyes or a sudden loss of your sense of smell, if not attributable to any other condition, are also a sign of COVID-19 infection.
This month, several studies have uncovered a few more unusual symptoms.
Digestive issues more common than we thought
A study published back in January reported that only three percent of COVID-19 patients in China experienced diarrhea. A World Health Organization report stated that about five percent of patients experienced nausea.
New research from doctors at several Chinese hospitals suggests that the numbers are higher and that up to half of COVID-19 patients may have digestive issues, along with the more common respiratory symptoms.
Usually, those patients who only show digestive symptoms soon develop the more common symptoms of cough, fever and difficulty breathing. Only about three percent of the cases studied had only digestive symptoms.
General malaise may be a symptom
The word “malaise” comes from old French, and means “a general feeling of discomfort, illness or uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify.”
A recent case report from a Washington state nursing home reported that nearly a third of the residents tested positive for the virus, but had none of the typical respiratory symptoms.
A handful reported the feeling of “general malaise,” along with extreme fatigue.
Of course, these are symptoms that could have other causes. But since COVID-19 is not presenting us with an exact, reliable profile, it’s good to know that these symptoms COULD indicate its presence.
Treat typical flu symptoms at home, and call your doctor if you’re worried
When you come down with a run-of-the-mill case of the flu, you will probably experience chills (usually a result of fever), body aches, and headache.
But right now, it can be hard or even impossible to know if these symptoms are due to the flu, or due to a COVID-19 infection.
According to a World Health Organization report, about 11 percent of people studied reported chills, while 14 percent reported muscle aches.
While these numbers may seem low, that probably won’t stop you from wondering whether you’re infected.
But if you’re worried about your symptoms, don’t start by going straight to your doctor’s office or hospital emergency room. You’ll expose yourself to germs unnecessarily since you’ll probably be turned away if your case isn’t urgent. That’s just the way it is right now.
If you have access to virtual, online visits with your doctor, you may want to call and schedule an appointment to help you sort out your symptoms.
In the meantime, do the usual things to treat your symptoms:
- Drink fluids
- Wash your hands as often as you think of it
- Sleep when you’re tired and don’t force yourself to do things you’re not up to doing
- Monitor your fever.
Some studies have advised us not to use ibuprofen with a COVID-19 infection, as it could dampen your immune system response. Other studies have stated that there’s not enough evidence for this.
If you have acetaminophen (Tylenol), use that. If not, use whatever you have to bring a high fever down.
Most of all, don’t panic. Keep a clear head, and don’t add stress to your body’s workload.