It can be a terrifying experience to feel like you’re coming down with something, and wonder whether it could be (COVID-19). That’s especially true of common symptoms like nausea, which can also be triggered by anxiety and other illnesses, such as the flu. Is nausea a symptom of coronavirus?
The answer is that, yes, nausea has been reported in research studies as a symptom of coronavirus in some patients. However, it’s not the most common symptom. Still, gastrointestinal issues, of which nausea is one, have been found in COVID-19 patients, and one study says they may be early symptoms of the virus. That doesn’t mean you have coronavirus, however. Many different things can cause nausea in people. The best suggestion is to check with your doctor.
Symptoms can vary by person, but people who’ve had it often describe feeling like a mild cold is coming on before being socked with a fever, a dry cough, and shortness of breath. However, others are asymptomatic or experience other symptoms, such as diarrhea, fatigue, a sore throat, a runny nose, and a headache.
According to NBC News, coronavirus often starts out slowly, and experts say that, “very often,” the earliest symptoms are “minor physical complaints — slight cough, headache, low-grade fever,” that gradually get worse.
Loss of taste and smell and red rimmed eyes have also emerged as possible symptoms of COVID-19.
Nausea – and other digestive issues like vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and lack of appetite – have all been documented as symptoms seen in coronavirus patients. Diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain may be early symptoms of coronavirus in some cases.
“Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) most commonly presents with respiratory symptoms, including cough, shortness of breath, and sore throat. However, digestive symptoms also occur in patients with COVID-19 and are often described in outpatients with less severe disease,” researchers in a study in The American Journal of Gastroenterology found.
That study found that the early symptoms of coronavirus can be gastrointestinal, with respiratory symptoms coming later: “In some cases, the digestive symptoms, particularly diarrhea, can be the initial presentation of COVID-19, and may only later or never present with respiratory symptoms or fever.”
However, the three most prevalent symptoms are a fever, a dry cough, and shortness of breath.
Absence of those things doesn’t mean you don’t have it, though. The scientific community is just starting to understand COVID-19. However, some research studies have sketched out the prevalence of different symptoms in patients with it. You can see those breakdowns later in this article.
“The most common symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, are fever, cough and shortness of breath,” according to John Hopkins Medicine. “Some patients also have body aches, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. If you have a sore throat and think you have been exposed to the new coronavirus, contact a health care provider by phone and discuss your risk.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Gastrointestinal Issues Have Been Noted in COVID-19 Patients
A study from the Wuhan Medical Treatment Expert Group for COVID-19 appeared in The American Journal of Gastroenterology. It studied 204 people who received medical care for COVID-19. You can find the study here. The researchers found that digestive problems were far more common in coronavirus patients than other studies indicated, writing that “half of patients in our cohort reported a digestive symptom.” However, that statistic was inflated by including people reporting a loss of appetite.
They concluded: “Although most patients presented to the hospital with fever or respiratory symptoms, we found that 103 patients (50.5%) reported a digestive symptom, including lack of appetite (81 [78.6%] cases), diarrhea (35 [34%] cases), vomiting (4 [3.9%] cases), and abdominal pain (2 [1.9%] cases).”
The researchers noted:
If lack of appetite is excluded from the analysis (since it is less specific for the gastrointestinal tract), there were 38 total cases (18.6%) where patients presented with a gastrointestinal-specific symptom, including diarrhea, vomiting, or abdominal pain. Patients with digestive symptoms had a significantly longer time from onset to admission than patients without digestive symptoms (9.0 days vs. 7.3 days). In 6 cases there were digestive symptoms but no respiratory symptoms. As the severity of the disease increased, digestive symptoms became more pronounced. Patients with digestive symptoms had higher mean liver enzyme levels, lower monocyte count, longer prothrombin time, and received more antimicrobial treatment than those without digestive symptoms.
The study also found: “Curiously, our data indicate that patients with digestive symptoms in our case series rarely had underlying digestive diseases.”
Another Study Found That Nausea & Vomiting Only Occurred in 5% of COVID-19 Patients
The article Clinical Characteristics of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in China was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. That article noted, “During the first 2 months of the current outbreak, Covid-19 spread rapidly throughout China and caused varying degrees of illness. Patients often presented without fever, and many did not have abnormal radiologic findings.” Thus, although fever is often cited as a leading indicator of coronavirus, an absence of a fever does not mean that you don’t have it, either.
“The most common symptoms at onset of illness were fever (136 [98.6%]), fatigue (96 [69.6%]), dry cough (82 [59.4%]), myalgia (48 [34.8%]), and dyspnea (43 [31.2%]). Less common symptoms were headache, dizziness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. A total of 14 patients (10.1%) initially presented with diarrhea and nausea 1 to 2 days prior to development of fever and dyspnea.”
This study found that, while gastrointestinal symptoms could occur in coronavirus patients, they were “uncommon” (nausea or vomiting was experienced by just 5 percent of patients studied, and diarrhea was suffered by only 3.8 percent).
“The median incubation period was 4 days (interquartile range, 2 to 7). The median age of the patients was 47 years (interquartile range, 35 to 58); 0.9% of the patients were younger than 15 years of age. A total of 41.9% were female. Fever was present in 43.8% of the patients on admission but developed in 88.7% during hospitalization,” the researchers reported. “The second most common symptom was cough (67.8%); nausea or vomiting (5.0%) and diarrhea (3.8%) were uncommon. Among the overall population, 23.7% had at least one coexisting illness (e.g., hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).”
A Third Study Found That a Fever & Cough Were the Most Common Symptoms
Emerging 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Pneumonia is another research study that broke down the percentages of symptoms in Chinese patients with the virus.
That study of coronavirus patients found that 10 percent had diarrhea and 6 percent had nausea or vomiting. The most common symptom was fever, which was reported by 96 percent of patients, following by a cough (47 percent), a little phlegm (20 percent), myalgia or fatigue (31 percent), mild headache and dizziness (16 percent), loss of appetite (18 percent), and stuffy or runny nose (4 percent).
According to Harvard Medical School, “some people infected with the virus have no symptoms. When the virus does cause symptoms, common ones include low-grade fever, body aches, coughing, nasal congestion, and sore throat. However, COVID-19 can occasionally cause more severe symptoms like high fever, severe cough, and shortness of breath, which often indicates pneumonia.”
Government Sites Still Indicate That a Fever, Cough & Shortness of Breath Are the Most Common Signs of Coronavirus
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronavirus symptoms “may appear 2-14 days after exposure (based on the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses).” The site lists the most common symptoms as:
Shortness of breath
The Australian government explains, “If you develop symptoms (fever, a cough, sore throat, tiredness or shortness of breath) within 14 days of leaving country or region that is at higher risk for COVID-19, or within 14 days of last contact of a confirmed case, you should arrange to see your doctor for urgent assessment.”
In general, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, coronaviruses (of which there are many), can cause these symptoms:
Sometimes the virus leads to pneumonia, which is when the virus gets more serious and can require hospitalization.
What is the incubation period? “Because this coronavirus has just been discovered, the time from exposure to symptom onset (known as the incubation period) for most people has yet to be determined. Based on current information, symptoms could appear as soon as three days after exposure to as long as 13 days later. Recently published research found that on average, the incubation period is about five days,” says Harvard.
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