This article was originally published on April 27, 2020. It was updated on June 30, 2020, to reflect new information about this rapidly evolving situation.
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Since this pandemic started, you’ve probably seen or heard some things that made you scrunch up your face. It’s completely understandable. We’ve haven’t experienced anything like this before. There’s been a lot of fear, frustration and uncertainty floating around — and unfortunately, misinformation is always not too far behind.
One topic that everyone seems to want clarification on right now is symptoms of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
You’re most likely aware of the common symptoms:
- Fever or chills.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
- Muscle or body aches.
- New loss of taste or smell.
- Sore throat.
- Congestion or runny nose.
- Nausea or vomiting.
But what about the rashes or even those dreaded COVID toes? Should we be panicking about these outliers? Pulmonologist Humberto Choi, MD says while they are attention-grabbing and unusual, some of these symptoms haven’t been popping up regularly.
“It’s important for everyone to know that the most common symptoms for COVID-19 are really respiratory symptoms and symptoms that are similar to those of the flu. For example, a dry cough, heavy fever and feeling tired,” says Dr. Choi.
While COVID toes and rashes have been associated with the coronavirus more than other viral infections, Dr. Choi explains that these symptoms haven’t been widespread so far.
“These symptoms seem to be more common in COVID-19 compared with all other viral infections,” says Dr. Choi. “But at this time, they haven’t affected a majority of people. So, the symptoms that people should be looking for are really a fever, cough and muscle aches that you can get when you have a viral infection. Those are the most common symptoms — and those are the things that people should be keeping on their radar.”
So why are we hearing about rashes and COVID toes?
The newer symptoms that have been emerging just go to show how people can react to infections in different ways. Some of these symptoms actually aren’t new in the realm of viral infections. Dr. Choi says it’s actually quite common for people to get rashes when they’re battling this type of infection, especially viral respiratory ones.
“It’s not uncommon for someone to have a viral infection and have a rash or blotchy areas on their body. This can happen with other viral respiratory infections like measles. And sometimes, antibiotics might cause skin rashes,” says Dr. Choi. But at this time, there is no specific rash pattern that’s associated with COVID-19.
Dr. Choi says, like rashes, COVID toes are just another way that the body can respond to a viral infection.
“It’s a different form of manifestation and it is still not very clear what causes it. One pattern of COVID toes that people are reporting is red lesions typically on the soles. It’s possible that this is a skin reaction or caused by a small clog or micro clots in the blood vessels found in the toes,” Dr. Choi says.
He’s seen this before though with ICU patients with sepsis or people on life support. These clogs in the vessels can lead to discoloration in the toes, which is why COVID toes look the way they do. However, at this time, the medical community hasn’t found an exact correlation between COVID toes and how mild or severe the virus is within the body.
Dr. Choi again emphasizes that COVID toes, like rashes, are still pretty uncommon right at this point in time. When it comes to monitoring symptoms, the common ones mentioned earlier would occur before anything else. Should you notice a rash or COVID toes in addition to the common symptoms of the coronavirus, it’s best to contact your healthcare provider sooner than later.
“During the pandemic, when someone has a specific symptom and they’re wondering whether that could be from COVID-19, my best advice would be to get tested,” says Dr. Choi.