GI Symptoms Indicating COVID-19 Infection

By Dr Raghuram Kondala, Consultant Medical Gastroenterologist, Continental Hospitals

It won’t be news to you if I say that the coronavirus is a worldwide pandemic. What was just an outbreak in a town of China, has now taken over the world, limiting people in the confines of their home, enabling organizations to shut down and crushing the world economy.

The classic description of COVID-19 is a respiratory illness with symptoms like fever, dry cough, body and joint pain, and fatigue. Earlier, these were considered to be the only symptoms associated with the disease. However, gastrointestinal (GI) complications are now emerging in COVID-19 cases. About half the patients that go to the hospital with respiratory complaints related to COVID also have digestive issues. And in many cases, the GI symptoms occurred first and then it was followed by cough and shortness of breath. Therefore, they should also be a focus while testing a patient for COVID-19.

GI symptoms that could indicate the presence of coronavirus infection include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Diarrhea is a major symptom that one must look for. It lasts between one and 14 days. Episodes of diarrhea occur nearly four to five times a day.

These may be less urgent than respiratory symptoms like dry cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, etc. But putting these GI symptoms under the carpet thinking it’s just a bad day or a bad week for your tummy is not wise. If you now find any such symptoms, quarantine yourself and contact the healthcare authorities immediately. It might get too late and things can get out of hand if you wait for the respiratory symptoms to occur. It is better to take all the minor hints your body gives you and act on it.

To protect yourself, apart from all the safety measures proposed by the government, we must also follow some toilet hygiene.

  • Put down the toilet lid before you flush it
  • After every use, clean the seat, flush handle, and the doorknob with a household disinfectant
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after you’ve been to the washroom
  • If there is an infected person in the house, keep a separate toilet for their use if possible. If not, keep separate toilet paper, handwash and other products and make sure the toilet is disinfected after the use

Practicing washroom hygiene, in general, makes sense, however, now it is no longer an option but a compulsion.

Dr Raghuram Kondala,
Consultant Medical Gastroenterologist, Continental Hospitals

Disclaimer: : The views and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author. They do not reflect the opinions or views of the organization.

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