The One Early Sign You Have COVID, New Study Says

Leah Groth
·3-min read

Fever, dry cough, fatigue, loss of sense of smell and taste are common early signs that you might have COVID-19, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, according to one new study there is another symptom that arises early on in an infection that might help you identify whether or not you have the virus that has killed over 234,000 Americans. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

What is the Early Sign You May Have COVID?

The new research conducted by researchers from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and published in the open access Journal of Clinical Immunology and Immunotherapy found that delirium paired with a fever may be an early sign of COVID. They point out that this mental confusion could be a manifestation of the other symptoms — loss of sense of taste and smell, headaches, coughing, and breathing difficulties.

"Delirium is a state of confusion in which the person feels out of touch with reality, as if they are dreaming," UOC researcher Javier Correa, who carried out this study at the University of Bordeaux (France), explained in a press release. He added that "we need to be on the alert, particularly in an epidemiological situation like this, because an individual presenting certain signs of confusion may be an indication of infection."

Correa and UOC Cognitive NeuroLab researcher Diego Redolar Ripoll focused on research surrounding how the virus affects the brain. They found that in addition to the damage the virus wreaks on the respiratory system, kidneys, and heart, that it also impacts the central nervous system, producing neurocognitive alterations, including headaches and delirium, as well as psychotic episodes.

"The main hypotheses which explain how the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 affects the brain point to three possible causes: hypoxia or neuronal oxygen deficiency, inflammation of brain tissue due to cytokine storm and the fact that the virus has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier to directly invade the brain," Correa explained. He pointed out that all of these could result in delirium, and that hypoxia-related brain damage has been evidenced in autopsies of coronavirus victims.

Therefore, they believe that systemic inflammation of the organ and a state of hypoxia are what causes the delirium.

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Symptoms of Delirium

According to the Mayo Clinic, "symptoms of delirium include:

Reduced awareness of the environment

This may result in:

  • An inability to stay focused on a topic or to switch topics

  • Getting stuck on an idea rather than responding to questions or conversation

  • Being easily distracted by unimportant things

  • Being withdrawn, with little or no activity or little response to the environment

Poor thinking skills (cognitive impairment)

This may appear as:

  • Poor memory, particularly of recent events

  • Disorientation — for example, not knowing where you are or who you are

  • Difficulty speaking or recalling words

  • Rambling or nonsense speech

  • Trouble understanding speech

  • Difficulty reading or writing

Behavior changes

These may include:

  • Seeing things that don't exist (hallucinations)

  • Restlessness, agitation or combative behavior

  • Calling out, moaning or making other sounds

  • Being quiet and withdrawn — especially in older adults

  • Slowed movement or lethargy

  • Disturbed sleep habits

  • Reversal of night-day sleep-wake cycle

Emotional disturbances

These may appear as:

  • Anxiety, fear or paranoia

  • Depression

  • Irritability or anger

  • A sense of feeling elated (euphoria)

  • Apathy

  • Rapid and unpredictable mood shifts

  • Personality changes"

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How to Avoid COVID-19

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear your face 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 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.