Coronavirus is a ferocious predator because it attacks the body in ways that you would not expect from a virus. Respiratory-related symptoms, such as a persistent cough and loss of smell, are hardly surprising. Reports show the effects of COVID-19 go far beyond the typical cold-like symptoms, however.
Research continues to map out the myriad ways COVID-19 can disrupt bodily processes and some of the most acute relate to the gastrointestinal tract.
The gastrointestinal tract is made up of a series of hollow organs joined together in a long tube with many folds from the mouth to the anus.
It is part of the human digestive system so when these organs are impeded, digestive complaints are usually the casualty.
Many reports suggest that people infected with COVID-19 experience gastrointestinal symptoms along with or before respiratory symptoms.
In China, the incidence of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea was significantly higher in patients within Hubei Province (where the virus is believed to have originated) than outside Hubei.
The incidence of diarrhoea and abdominal pain was significantly lower in patients from China than from other countries.
The review also found that gastrointestinal symptoms correlated with a more "severe disease course" and a larger proportion of intensive care unit (ICU) admission.
The researchers concluded that gastrointestinal symptoms are common clinical manifestations of COVID‐19.
"When accessing surgical patients, clinicians should inquire whether patients complain about any gastrointestinal discomfort in detail, identify COVID‐19 in time, and reduce the risk of infection during surgery," they said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has acknowledged GI issues on its list of COVID-19 warning signs.
The NHS does not include them in the list of main symptoms, however.
According to the health body, the main symptoms of COVID-19 are as follows:A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
"Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms," says the health body.What should I do if I recognise these symptoms?
If you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus, UK health advice says to:Get a test to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.Stay at home and do not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.
Anyone you live with, and anyone in your support bubble, must also stay at home until you get your result.
A support bubble is where someone who lives alone (or just with their children) can meet people from one other household.