Skip to content

Some COVID Patients Only Have This One Weird Symptom

A new study urges patients and doctors to be on the lookout for this signal.
Woman sleeps in bed with a face mask on

A significant number of people infected with coronavirus may only show one symptom, which isn't widely associated with what was formerly considered primarily a respiratory disease: Gastrointestinal issues. That's the conclusion of a new review of 36 studies of COVID-19, published in Abdominal Radiology, which found that one in five patients reported only stomach problems after being infected with the virus, such as appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Read on to hear more of this warning, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

Stomach issues are a sign you may have COVID-19

That number might actually be larger, the study's authors said, because several of those studies extended to the early days of the pandemic, when doctors were less aware of the range of symptoms that could indicate COVID-19.

The researchers said doctors should be aware that gastrointestinal troubles may be a common signal of coronavirus. 

"Seeing these things is not necessarily telling us a patient has COVID-19," study co-author Dr. Mitch Wilson, a radiologist and clinical lecturer at the University of Alberta, said in a press release. "It could be from a variety of potential causes. But one of those potential causes is infection from the virus, and in an environment where COVID-19 is very prevalent, it's something to consider and potentially raise as a possibility to the referring physician."

This isn't the first study to connect stomach-related symptoms with COVID. Research from Wuhan, China, published in May found that 50% of coronavirus patients there reported gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting or stomachache. In Australia last summer, one nurse's COVID diagnosis after experiencing only abdominal pain caused the government to urge citizens to be aware of the potential red flag.

A disease with many potential symptoms

COVID-19 can involve literally dozens of symptoms affecting a wide range of body systems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common symptoms of coronavirus include cough, fatigue, fever, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, body aches, headache and sore throat. 

But about 40% of people may be infected with coronavirus may be infected—and capable of spreading the disease—while experiencing no symptoms themselves. Experts aren't sure why.

And studies like this one show that many more people infected with COVID may feel sick but brush off their symptoms as something more minor.

RELATED: Unhealthiest Habits on the Planet, According to Doctors

How to stay healthy

So do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a 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.