Unusual Symptoms of COVID-19

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  • After dominating the news for months, most people can name the most common symptoms of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), or COVID-19. These include coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, and sore throat. However, as more patients are diagnosed and hospitalized with the coronavirus, doctors are identifying new and unusual signs and symptoms of COVID-19. These range from a loss of sense of smell and/or taste to rashes to ‘COVID toes’ and even more serious concerns, such as blood clots.

  • 1
    Loss of sense of smell and/or taste
    Close-up of a woman coughing

    One way COVID-19 affects patients is through the loss of sense of smell and/or taste by interrupting brain function. Although there is no clear cause on how the coronavirus affects brain function, it’s possibly a direct result of the virus’ infection. However, it also could be an indirect side effect due to inflammation or changes in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. The loss of sense of smell and/or taste is not always accompanied by coughing or difficulty breathing.

  • 2
    Rash
    Hives on Neck

    More and more patients diagnosed with COVID-19 are listing a rash among their symptoms. Rashes are a fairly common symptom with viral respiratory infections. Sometimes the body’s response to the infection results in a rash and, other times, the rash could be the side effect of taking antibiotics as part of treatment. Although there is no specific rash pattern currently associated with the coronavirus, it’s not surprising some patients are presenting with this symptom.

  • 3
    COVID toes
    Chilblains-WikiCommons

    Many COVID-19 patients are now reporting red lesions on the soles of their feet or along the tops of their toes. Known as “COVID toes,” these red, blotchy spots are yet another manifestation of the coronavirus. Not every patient will experience them, as each person reacts differently to the virus. Also, while research continues on coronavirus, it’s not clear what causes COVID toes. It’s possible it’s a skin reaction, but it also could be the result of micro blood clots in the toes’ blood vessels.

  • 4
    Blood clots
    blood-clot

    For some patients, there is an increase in blood clot formation that can result in organ damage or other complications. For instance, a blood clot that moves into the lungs (pulmonary embolism) can lead to shortness of breath or chest pain, while a blood clot in the heart can cause a heart attack. Other complications of blood clots include brain damage, stroke or even death. It’s unclear if an increase in blood clot formation is a direct result of the coronavirus or a result of the immune system’s response to the virus.

  • 5
    Fatigue
    Young Caucasian woman sound asleep in bed

    Approximately 38% of all COVID-19 patients experience fatigue. That’s not surprising given your body is under attack, and your immune system is doing all it can to fight off the infection. For some patients, this fatigue is a tiredness that results in sleeping a lot and resting in bed when awake. For others, it’s an all-consuming lethargy that saps all their energy and requires a long time to recover.

  • 6
    Blue lips or face
    healthcare worker at home visit using oximeter on senior female patient

    While it’s important to talk with your doctor or local health department when you start to experience the more common COVID-19 symptoms, if you or someone you know experiences blue lips or face, you need to seek out care immediately at an emergency room or coronavirus-specific clinic or urgent care center. Blue lips or face can indicate lack of oxygen in the blood, which can result from a severe medical condition.

  • 7
    New confusion or inability to arouse
    tired woman in bed

    In some cases, COVID-19 patients have demonstrated confusion with their situation or surroundings, and, for some, they are unable to wake up and become alert to where they are and what is going on. In the event this happens, you should seek out emergency medical attention right away for evaluation. Given that many coronavirus patients are older, this confusion or inability to arouse could be a symptom of a pre-existing condition, but that determination should be made by a doctor.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 May 5
  1. Symptoms of Coronavirus. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
  2. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/symptoms-causes/syc-20479963
  3. Blue Lips. Healthgrades.com. https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/symptoms-and-conditions/blue-lips
  4. Coronavirus. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_3
  5. COVID-19 Basics. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-basics
  6. Are COVID Toes and Rashes Common Symptoms of the Coronavirus? Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/are-covid-toes-and-rashes-common-symptoms-of-coronavirus/
  7. Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). World Health Organization. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/are-covid-toes-and-rashes-common-symptoms-of-coronavirus/
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  • COVID toes are red lesions found on the soles of the feet or across the tops of toes. Although some patients are experiencing this symptom, it’s unknown if they are merely a skin reaction to the coronavirus or the result of discoloration in the toes due to micro blood clots in the blood vessels of the toes.
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