Covid-19 has two major symptoms that we are all hyper-vigilant of: a temperature and a dry, continuous cough. As the pandemic goes on, however, and doctors become more finely attuned to the myriad ways that the disease can manifest, so less obvious signals emerge.
"These are what we call ‘atypical symptoms’ but they are more common than we originally thought. I have seen these symptoms in patients first-hand," says Locum Medical Consultant Dr Asif Munaf. "They can either indicate the start of the illness or can be the primary symptom of the infection."
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So, how do we spot these new symptoms and how seriously should we be taking them?
1/ Loss of taste or smell
Medically known as ageusia and anosmia respectively, the disappearance of your sense of taste and smell could indicate that you've been infected with the novel coronavirus. Dr Daniel Atkinson from treated.com warns: "As this is not a widely reported symptom, it’s likely people do not realise they have the virus and it’s thought to be linked to a later stage of corona."
Claire Hopkins, President of the British Rhinological Society, has been studying the anosmia symptom: "We think that loss of smell occurs commonly in people with mild disease. Our studies have found the symptom in two in three patients, so it does seem to be a good marker."
Awareness of this indicator is vital, as it may be your only symptom. "We are now seeing people who have tested positive for the disease with only the loss of their sense of smell as a symptom," says Hopkins. "It seems to be more common in younger people with milder disease but this could simply reflect that it gets overlooked when there are severe respiratory problems."
2/ Fatigue and body aches
Staying inside of your house for lockdown can undoubtedly make you feel lethargic, but a severe lack of energy could mean you have coronavirus. Dr Aragona Giuseppe, GP and medical advisor at Prescription Doctor explains: "If you feel tired quite suddenly and find it difficult to do every-day tasks you should self-isolate as this may mean you have been infected.
"Fatigue can be a symptom of a wide range of illnesses and common colds. However, it could also mean you have COVID-19," he continues.
"People may also feel drowsy and experience confusion," says Dr Atkinson.
This reluctance to move can be accompanied by aching and heavy limbs. "If you are suffering with sudden body aches, in the legs or anywhere else, which don’t usually hurt, you should self-isolate," says Dr Giuseppe.
Aching can happen on even the most minute level, explains Dr Atkinson: 'Patients may have sore throats or headaches. In fact, just moving your eyes can be fairly painful.'
3/ Irritated eyes and a runny nose
Not only can eyes feel tired, they may begin to itch too. As we enter into springtime, daffodils emerge and pollen floats abundantly in the air, so you may assume that you are simply experiencing normal seasonal allergies.
But experts advise this may not be the case. "A runny nose and red, itchy eyes are definitely lesser known symptoms of the virus," says Dr Giuseppe. "They could be mistaken for a common cold or hay-fever at this time of year. But if you are showing any of these symptoms then you should self-isolate immediately."
4/ Stomach problems
An upset stomach can be a familiar sign of health issues including food poisoning, irritable bowel syndrome or dietary intolerances. But it is also a lesser-known symptom of Covid-19.
"In some cases, symptoms of coronavirus can include the patient experiencing nausea or diarrhoea," says Dr Atkinson. "Although symptoms may come and go, if you are feeling unwell, it’s important that you self-isolate and stay inside – you should not even go out for food or medicine. You need someone else to do this for you."
How serious are these symptoms?
However, Hopkins believes this information should be updated. "The World Health Organisation are considering adding loss of smell to their list and there are a number of scientific studies on this symptom. However, in terms of needing treatment, a cough and shortness of breath still remain the most important," she says.
Regardless, it is essential that those contaminated recognise their symptoms, so that they do not go outside, visit public parks or enter supermarkets. "The person will remain infective until these symptoms clear and sometimes even longer after that," says Dr Munaf.
As the disease continues to spread, it is clear there is more to understand about the virus. "The symptoms of Covid-19 have been well documented. However, as more cases are confirmed across the world, and we are learning more about the virus," says Dr Atkinson, "it’s apparent now that the symptoms are much more diverse."
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
According to the NHS website, the primary symptoms of coronavirus are:
A new, consistent cough
Other coronavirus symptoms that have been reported include:
Tiredness or fatigue
Shortness of breath
A loss of smell or taste
What should you do if you have symptoms of coronavirus?
If you have symptoms of coronavirus you should use the NHS 111 Coronavirus service online. People are being urged to only call 111 if they cannot get help online.
To avoid infecting others, do not go to a GP surgery or pharmacy if you suspect you have coronavirus.
If you need urgent medical help that you cannot get online, call 111. In an life-threatening emergency call 999 for an ambulance.
Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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