By now we should all know the common signs of COVID—cough, fever, fatigue, body aches, muscle aches and shortness of breath, among other symptoms. But in addition to the typical woes, some people experience unusual effects of the virus that aren't widely known about. Researchers are still learning about why strange symptoms happen to some people and not others. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to doctors who revealed odd signs of COVID they've seen and explained why symptoms vary so much. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
No Medical Explanation or Remedies Yet for Loss of Smell or Taste
Dr. Ali Jamehdor, DO Medical Director, Emergency Department at Dignity Health St. Mary's Medical Center, says, "Most of us know about the 'usual' sign and symptoms that come with COVID infections. Runny nose, cough, sore throat, headache, body ache and fever. But we have seen some symptoms that are associated with COVID-19…that aren't usually associated with an upper respiratory viral infection. Remember in the beginning when we started to hear about people losing their sense of smell or taste? This seems to be mainly associated with the original COVID-19 virus…less so with the Delta variant…and as the Omicron variant has become the superior variant…we're not seeing it at all these days. While it's not that unusual to lose some sense of smell or taste with a regular cold because of congestion and other inflammatory processes that occur on the oral nasopharyngeal cavity, this loss of smell and or taste was occurring in patients with absolutely no other complaints. Some people would lose these senses for hours, some days and there are still cases that have not regained these important senses for over a year. There has not been any true medical explanation for this, there does not seem to be any remedies at this time but luckily this symptom seems to be losing its potency and we are seeing fewer and fewer of this complaint."
Dr. Michael Hirt, a Board Certified Nutrition from Harvard University and Board Certified in Internal Medicine and is with The Center for Integrative Medicine in Tarzana California says, "Without the other classic COVID symptoms occurring simultaneously, most people who get COVID diarrhea think they have a mild case of food poisoning or ate something that just didn't 'agree' with them. Viral shedding in the stool is so common with this virus that 'COVID hunting' public health officials often sample community wastewater to track the levels of the virus in cities, neighborhoods, and even college dorms."
Dr. Teresa Bartlett, senior medical officer at Sedgwick explains, "The skin rashes are really an odd symptom we are seeing in some cases. Rashes on the body, head and even COVID toe that appears like bruising on the toes. Many people with the Omnicron variant are getting a really bad sore throat that was not the case with the prior variants. It appears people either have a minor stuffy nose and scratchy throat or they are really sick with headache, dizziness, cough, fever and severe fatigue."
Dr. Hadassah Kupfer, Audiologist and Hearing Aid Specialist says, "Tinnitus, or ringing in the ear, has been reported on occasion, either following Covid-19 infection or even the Covid-19 vaccination and boosters. We have seen multiple cases in our NYC audiology practice, where there has been high community spread of COVID infection, and COVID vaccination is highly prevalent and/or mandated across most work sectors. Tinnitus is usually a sign of damage to the inner ear- which ultimately builds up into a noticeable hearing loss. Although the direct link between COVID and tinnitus is still unknown, one possibility is attributed to the cytokine storm that occurs in COVID patients, which may attack the very delicate cochlea (inner ear). If this is correct, then patients with underlying risk factors for developing hearing loss (diabetes, heart conditions, prior noise exposure, prior diagnosis of hearing loss) will be more vulnerable to auditory symptoms from COVID, as this may speed up the pathological process. The delicate cochlea would also be more vulnerable in those with autoimmune conditions, since their body is more likely to attack itself."
COVID Symptoms Can Appear in the Mouth
According to Maryland based dentist Dr. Mansi Oza, "COVID virus binds to the cells inside the mouth. By entering through the blood and swallowing from the mouth, it spreads to the lower lobes of the lungs, gut and other parts of the body." As a result, Dr. Oza explains that the following symptoms can appear in the mouth.
"Loss of taste
Severe dryness in the mouth caused by salivary gland damage caused by the virus
White coating on the tongue which looks like an oral thrush. This is caused by rise in opportunistic growth of pathogens like fungi and bacteria
Color and texture changes of the tongue which seems to be associated with the severity of the disease. Dark red to purple due to lack of oxygen reaching the tongue
Greasy/furry texture: due to oxygen free radical damage and decreased capability for anti oxidation."
Why These Symptoms Only Occurring in Some People
"The symptoms people exhibit largely depend on their immune status and how their body responds to the virus," Dr. Bartlett states. "It also could depend on the variant you are exposed to and whether or not you have any immunity either through vaccines or prior infections to COVID 19. Your immune status directly correlates with how well you take care of yourself by eating a well-balanced diet, maintaining a regular exercise program and getting enough sleep."
Why COVID Symptoms Vary so Much
Dr. Bartlett says, "The symptoms vary as does the actual contraction of the virus. I have seen cases of 2 people driving in a car for hours together without masks, when the next day one of them becomes sick with the virus and the other person does not get it. Keep in mind there are asymptomatic carriers out there who unknowingly could spread the virus. It is speculated that all this variation is dependent on age, underlying health conditions, blood type, race, social determinants of health, prior vaccinations you may have had in your lifetime, prior diseases you had and how much of the virus you were exposed to."
Should People Who Contract Abnormal Symptoms be Concerned?
"Not really. While scientists continue to study all the various symptoms and implications, unless there is something that continues to bother you after you have "recovered" there is no need to be concerned. As always, talk to your doctor if you are worried about something," Dr. Bartlett states.
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.