Halloween Horror: Is it COVID-19 or Another Infection of the Night?

  • Connexions
  • 2020-11-02
  • 1575

The wind howls and new-fallen leaves swirl around. There’s a sense of dread hanging in the air. Monsters are about, spreading terror across the land. The sound of coughing and gasping breath is coming up fast. A slow look over your shoulder reveals the sweaty, nightmare visage of COVID-19 – or does it?
Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus spread across the globe, doctors and public health officials have warned of particular symptoms associated with the virus, including a dry cough, fever and shortness of breath, among others, such as headache, chills or a sore throat. As colder air rolls across the United States and autumn becomes winter, many of these same symptoms are associated with other common illnesses. But in our current, fear-heightened timeline, we tend to think of each symptom as signs of the frightening, red-spiked, mask-wearing COVID-19. A recent survey conducted among healthcare professionals by NPR provided insight into when people should seek medical advice for a potential COVID-19 infection, or think of other culprits under the proverbial mask. The physicians broke down each of the symptoms as they related to COVID-19 and other potential illnesses.

Fever – A fever is a common response to infection in multiple illnesses, such as COVID-19, influenza and other kinds of infections. In COVID-19 cases, David Arnoff, head of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told NPR that it was reported in 82% to 87% of mild to moderate cases of infections. In the case of COVID-19 infections, many patients can experience fevers that last for days at a time. Unless an individual who has a fever can attribute it to something other than COVID-19, if it persists, Arnoff recommended they seek an evaluation from a doctor.
Dry cough – A dry cough is the second most common symptom patients with COVID-19 report. However, a dry cough can be associated with other respiratory issues, including asthma, allergies, flu and pneumonia. A cough could simply be that, a cough. While a cough is a common symptom of COVID-19, it’s only present in two out of three symptomatic diagnoses. If a persistent cough cannot be explained, or is associated with sudden shortness of breath, it’s recommended that patients get tested for possible COVID-19 infection.

Shortness of breath – Asthma sufferers know well the discomfort shortness of breath (dyspnea) can bring about. That difficulty breathing can be disconcerting, but an albuterol treatment can rectify the situation. Shortness of breath can also occur in overweight individuals who may have engaged in strenuous activity. In COVID-19 cases, shortness of breath typically occurs in more severe cases. According to NPR, only about 8% of mild COVID-19 infections was reported in mild cases, which means people who suddenly experience shortness of breath that cannot be explained through other means, should likely seek medical attention.
While these are the “big three” symptoms, there are signs related to a COVID-19 infection that are also common to other infections. Chills are associated with fever, which as was previously noted, can be attributed to other types of infection or illness. Muscle pain is also another symptom identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention common to COVID-19. Such pain, an inflammatory reaction to infection, is also common in influenza and other viral infections. Fatigue, sore throat and headache are other signs of potential infection from COVID-19 or other viruses. Additionally, COVID-19 patients have reported gastrointestinal issues, confusion and certain skin conditions, such as “COVID toes,” which are a serious swelling of the toes that could be accompanied by lesions.

  On their own, many of these symptoms can be related to other illnesses, even COVID , which resembles chilblains on the feet and toes. But if one or more of the symptoms manifests, it is recommended patients should seek medical attention. Leave the masks for trick-or-treaters, rip the mask off of COVID-19 and understand the underlying symptoms.

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