Diarrhoea May Be An Early Symptom Of Coronavirus

One study recently published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology has found that gastrointestinal upsets like diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain are more common in cases of COVID-19 than scientists initially thought. In fact, nearly 20 per cent of the 209 people surveyed had experienced diarrhoea as their first symptom. The others developed diarrhea within the first 10 days after they started feeling respiratory symptoms. 

“In some cases, the digestive symptoms, particularly diarrhoea, can be the initial presentation of COVID-19, and may only later or never present with respiratory symptoms or fever,” the researchers wrote.

“Failure to recognise these patients early and often may lead to unwitting spread of the disease.”

This data is consistent with reports from those working on the frontline.

This data is consistent with reports from those working on the frontline.

“A lot of people have diarrhoea,” Dr Rajeev Fernando told Prevention US. “I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve seen with diarrhoea and no respiratory symptoms that end up having COVID-19.”

It begs the question… why isn’t it being talked about more? While diarrhoea does make the WHO’s list of coronavirus symptoms it certainly isn’t presented as a tell-tale sign to watch for.

As coronavirus is predominantly a respiratory illness – meaning it mainly affects the nose, mouth, throat, airways and lungs – it could be that patients don’t realise their tummy troubles are linked to COVID-19. Or, as Dr Fernando suggests, they might be too embarrassed to talk about it. “A lot of times, patients don’t volunteer that information.”

Plus, it’s not entirely clear why it occurs. Researchers who worked on the study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology  believe the virus enters your system through “ a receptor found in both the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract where it is expressed at nearly 100-fold higher levels than in respiratory organs.”

So, what should you do if you develop the runs?

Firstly, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms. In Australia, it’s safe to assume you have coronavirus if you develop any suspicious symptoms – including diarrhoea if it goes hand in hand with a fever. You can read more on the criteria for testing here.

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