From dry mouth to hearing loss: Some lesser-known COVID symptoms to watch out for

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As COVID-19 cases continue to spike amid what is being called a second strain of the virus, experts share that people need to be aware of some new, lesser-known symptoms that are beginning to show up in many patients.

Dr Gitali Bhagawati, consultant and head, department of microbiology and infection control, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital told indianexpress.com how the “new variants including UK variants, double mutant variants are spreading faster hence diversity in symptoms is also apparent”.

“They are highly infectious and all age groups are at the same level of risk. As far as symptoms are concerned high to low-grade fever, cough, cold, breathing difficulty, running nose, body ache, loss of taste and smell were already prevailing. But symptoms like dry mouth, non-salivation, GI (gastrointestinal) symptoms and headache are the symptoms which are now being more talked about,” she said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reinstated guidance recently stated that direct contact with a sick person or through airborne transmission remains the primary cause of coronavirus’ spread.

The known symptoms identified by the global researchers are fever, cough, chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, repeated shaking with chills muscle or body aches, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, according to CDC.

CDC advised that any unusual development or symptom should not be ruled out and requires testing. These include conjunctivitis or pink eye, dysfunction of Eustachian Tube/hearing loss with symptoms such as muffled hearing, reduced hearing, ear pain, etc, and gastrointestinal disorders.

“The digestive system involves the gastrointestinal tract (GI) along with the liver, pancreas, and gall bladder which should be taken care of as COVID, apart from interrupting other body parts, affects the GI tract too. It disrupts its functioning and renders it unable to perform its duties of absorbing electrolytes and fluids from the body. Patients can even end up with bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract,” said Dr Roy Patankar, gastroenterologist and director of Zen Multispecialty Hospital, Chembur, Mumbai.

As per a study done in China, pink eye or conjunctivitis is a sign of COVID-19 infection. In the case of pink eye, people can develop redness, swelling, and watery eyes.

If you have mild to serious recurring symptoms, it is important to get yourself tested, as per CDC.

According to the latest report of the National Institute of Health, half of the coronavirus patients suffer oral symptoms during the infection. As per the researchers, some of the symptoms include Xerostomia (dry mouth) in which the salivary glands in your mouth don’t make enough saliva to keep the mouth wet; and lesions or blisters or mouth ulcers occur on the mucous membrane of the oral cavity. As per the research, this happens when the virus attacks the oral linings and muscle fibres.

Experts have also warned of a strange symptom called COVID Tongue which is becoming an increasingly common symptom for the infection. In this condition, your tongue may start to appear white and patchy, according to scientists. In the COVID tongue, your body fails to produce saliva that protects your mouth from bad bacteria. People with this symptom may also find it difficult to chew food and to speak.

Covid tongue could also be accompanied by a change to the tongue’s sensation, as well as muscle pain while chewing due to persistent ulcers. However, it’s not entirely clear what specifically causes Covid tongue, states the research.

As per a February 2021 study by Imperial College London, new research into COVID-19 patients discovered new symptoms associated with the virus, including chills, loss of appetite, headaches, and muscle aches.

The research analysed swab tests and questionnaires between June 2020 and January 2021 and involved over a million people. According to the study, the new set of symptoms were added to the most common symptoms including fever, loss of smell and taste, and persistent cough. The study noted that while around 60 per cent of people who tested positive did not show any symptoms, the more symptoms a person had, they were more likely to have contracted COVID-19.

“We need to observe that COVID is not merely a respiratory infection, apart from lungs it also affects blood vessels and other body organs, hence it can manifest in the symptoms which we even have no idea about. In some cases people are reporting with skin rash and eye congestion but they are very rare till date,” mentioned Dr Bhagawati.

Even as the new symptoms are being monitored and researched, long-term effects of the respiratory condition continue to be a cause of concern, according to World Health Organization chief Dr Tedros.

“Many people who have suffered even mild #COVID19 disease report long-term symptoms including fatigue, weakness, “brain fog”, dizziness, tremors, insomnia, depression, anxiety, joint pain, chest tightness and more”, he mentioned on Twitter.

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