Four Weird Covid-19 Symptoms You May Have Never Heard Of

With more than two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of positive cases continue to be registered around the world every day. The appearance of new variants made the symptoms evolve as well. According to the NHS (National Health Service), from the United Kingdom, initially fever, cough and loss or alteration of smell or taste were considered as the main symptoms of infection of Covid-19. Now, the new guidelines suggest to watch out for sore throats, stuffy noses and headaches. These are the most common symptoms but know that there are more ‘obscure’ ones – from skin lesions to hearing loss, there is more and more data that point out that Covid symptoms go well beyond a common cold or flu.

skin injuries

Skin complaints related to Covid-19 are not uncommon. In fact, a UK study published in 2021 found that one in five patients only exhibited a rash and no other symptoms. Covid-19 can affect the skin in a number of ways: some people may have a generalized maculopapular rash (flat or raised areas of discolored skin) while others may have hives (raised areas of itchy skin). Already ‘Covid toes’ described red, swollen or blistered skin lesions on the toes. This symptom is most commonly seen in teenagers or young adults with mild or no symptoms.

Most Covid-19 skin lesions tend to disappear after a few days or, in some cases, weeks later, without the need for any specialized treatment. If the skin is very itchy or painful, you can see a family doctor or dermatologist who can recommend treatment.

Covid nails

During an infection, our bodies naturally try to express that they are under an unusual amount of stress. And they can do this in many strange ways, including through the nails, which can include changes such as:

Beau lines – horizontal indentations that occur at the base of fingernails or toenails when there is a temporary stop in nail growth due to physical stress on the body;

Lines of Mees – horizontal white lines that appear on the nails, probably caused by abnormal production of proteins in the nail bed;

A red crescent pattern may also develop at the base of the nails, although the mechanism responsible for this change is still unclear to researchers.

Data on how many people experience ‘Covid nails’ is limited but it is estimated that it could be between 1 and 2% of patients. This symptom tends to appear in the days or weeks after an infection as the nails grow. While they can be painful initially, the vast majority tend to get back to normal in just a few weeks. Notably, while these changes could be indicative of Covid-19, they could also be caused by different things. For example, Beau’s lines can be secondary to chemotherapy or another infection.

Loss of hair

Hair loss is perhaps a mild symptom of Covid-19, which usually occurs a month or more after an acute infection. In a study of nearly 6,000 participants who were infected, hair loss was the most common post-Covid symptom, reported in 48% of participants. It was especially prevalent among people with a severe infection and white women.

It is thought that it may result from the hair ‘feeling’ the body’s stress, leading to hair loss. However, hair loss can also be triggered by other stressful events. The good news is that, over time, the hair returns to normal.

Hearing loss and tinnitus

As with other viral infections such as the flu and measles, Covid-19 affects cells in the inner ear, with hearing loss or tinnitus sometimes following infection. In a study, with 560 participants, hearing loss occurred in 3.1% of patients with Covid-19, while tinnitus appeared in 4.5%.

In a study of 30 people diagnosed with Covid-19 with another 30 who were not – and none with pre-existing hearing problems – researchers pointed out that Covid was associated with inner ear giving, which led to hearing impairment with higher frequencies. Although for most patients the problem resolves on its own, however, there are cases in which the hearing loss becomes permanent.

And what are the reasons for these symptoms?

It is not yet known exactly what causes these ‘obscure’ symptoms but a more important role is played by a process called inflammation, our body’s natural defense mechanism against pathogens, whether SARS-CoV-2 or others. It involves the production of ‘cytokines’ – proteins that are important in controlling the activity of immune cells.

Excessive production of these proteins, as part of the inflammation triggered by Covid-19 infection, can cause sensory deficits, which potentially explains why some people experience hearing loss or tinnitus. It can also rupture the capillary networks, very tiny blood vessels that supply blood to organs, including the ears, hair and nails.