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From skin lesions to tinnitus, four strange COVID-19 symptoms you might not have heard about

The Conversation - May 15, 2022, 12:18:40 IST

Well over two years into the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 cases continue to be recorded around the world every day.

With the rise of new variants, the symptoms of COVID-19 have also evolved. Initially, the NHS regarded a fever, cough, and loss or change in sense of smell or taste as the main symptoms which could indicate COVID-19 infection. Now, recently updated NHS guidance suggests also looking out for symptoms including a sore throat, blocked or runny nose, and a headache.

But what about some of the more obscure signs and symptoms? From skin lesions to hearing loss, emerging data is increasingly showing us that COVID-19 symptoms can go beyond what

you might expect from a regular cold or a flu.

1. Skin lesions

COVID-19 related skin complaints are not uncommon. In fact, a UK study published in 2021 found that one in five patients only exhibited a rash and no other symptom.

COVID-19 can affect the skin in a variety of ways. Some people may experience a widespread maculopapular rash (flat or raised areas of discolored skin), while others might present with hives (raised areas of itchy skin).

“COVID toes”, meanwhile, describes red, swollen or blistering skin lesions on the toes. This symptom is more commonly seen in adolescents or young adults with mild or no symptoms.

Most COVID-19 skin lesions tend to go away after a few days, or in some instances a few weeks, without the need for any specialized treatment. If the skin is very itchy or painful though, you can consult a GP or dermatologist, who may recommend treatment such as a cream.

2. COVID nails

During an infection, including that of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which causes COVID-19), our bodies naturally try to express that they’re under an unusual amount of stress. They can do this in a variety of weird and wonderful ways, including through our nails. “COVID nails” encompasses changes such as:

  • Beau’s lines – horizontal indentations that occur at the base of the fingernails or toenails when there’s a temporary interruption in nail growth due to a physical stress on the body

  • Mees’ lines – horizontal white lines that appear on the nails, thought to be caused by the abnormal production of proteins in the nail bed

  • a red half-moon pattern which develops at the base of the fingernails (the mechanism underlying this change is unclear).

The data on how many people experience COVID nails is limited, but it’s been estimated it could be up to 1-2 per cent of COVID-19 patients.

COVID nails tend to appear in the days or weeks following COVID-19 infection as the nails grow. Although they might be painful initially, the vast majority tend to return to normal over a few weeks.

Notably, while these changes may be indicative of COVID-19, they can also be caused by different things. For example, Beau’s lines can be secondary to chemotherapy or another infection.


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