Can Diarrhea Be an Initial Symptom of COVID-19?

Medically Reviewed on 3/1/2021

What is COVID-19?

COVD-19 is a contagious infectious illness that causes widespread symptoms. Diarrhea is one of the most relatively common but less well-known symptom of COVID-19.
COVD-19 is a contagious infectious illness that causes widespread symptoms. Diarrhea is one of the most relatively common but less well-known symptom of COVID-19.

COVID-19 is highly infectious, even before people start to show symptoms. It also has a host of different symptoms that aren’t commonly recognized. 

Many cases of COVID-19 are mild, but it’s important to quarantine yourself if you do have the virus to help protect others.

Vulnerable people are at higher risk from COVID-19. These people are more likely to experience serious complications or even die. High-risk groups include people with:

Even if you have no preexisting conditions, if you have COVID-19, you may experience serious health complications. It can cause:

While many people fully recover from COVID-19, not everyone does. Identifying all the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, including less common symptoms like diarrhea, can help you know when to get tested and treated. 

Signs of COVID-19

One of the most frequent symptoms of COVID-19 is fever. A temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is considered a fever. Once you have a fever from COVID-19, you have already been infected and have likely been contagious for several days. 

Other warning signs of COVID-19 include:

Diarrhea

A relatively common but less well-known symptom of COVID-19 is diarrhea. Along with a fever, some patients will experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that may be mistaken for gastroenteritis (stomach flu) instead of COVID-19.

Shortness of breath

Many people with COVID-19 experience shortness of breath doing everyday tasks like walking around the house or climbing stairs. Experiencing new shortness of breath may be a sign of COVID-19.

Dry cough

Along with shortness of breath, dry or unproductive coughs (coughs that don’t produce phlegm or mucus) are frequently a symptom of COVID-19.

Chronic fatigue

Many people report that COVID-19 leaves them feeling exhausted no matter how long they rest.  

Body aches

Along with fever and fatigue, COVID-19 can cause flu-like body aches. These may be a result of inflammation in the body due to infection. 

Loss of sense of taste or smell

Finally, even in people who are otherwise asymptomatic, a new loss of your sense of smell (anosmia) or inability to taste food is often a symptom of COVID-19. You can test for this symptom by regularly smelling strongly-scented items, such as coffee grounds, vinegar, or scented candles. 

In severe cases of COVID-19, symptoms can include:

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should get medical help immediately.

Causes of COVID-19

COVID-19 is highly contagious. While wearing masks and taking other preventive measures like social distancing can reduce your risk of catching the virus, the only way to avoid it entirely is to stay completely isolated. 

Any time you go out in public or meet with people outside your household, you are at risk of catching COVID-19:

Potential causes of COVID-19 include:

Attending large gatherings

The more people who are in one place, the more likely it is that at least one of them has COVID-19. Attending large gatherings like parties, church services, rallies, or sports games puts you at risk of getting COVID-19.

Going to restaurants and stores

Even in businesses with limited occupancy, spending time indoors with other people can expose you to COVID-19. Other patrons or employees may be asymptomatic but still shed the virus. 

Visiting people 

Finally, even if you avoid public places and large gatherings, your loved ones may not do the same. Meeting with people who are not taking precautions may put you at risk of exposure if the other person is presymptomatic or asymptomatic. 

Diagnosing COVID-19

To diagnose COVID-19, you will need to take an approved test for the virus. This test can be done at many pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and hospitals around the country. You may need to make a specific appointment for the test so that medical professionals can wear appropriate protective gear. There are also home tests that are approved by the FDA.

Some tests offer instant results, while others may take several days to a week to produce an answer. 

Until you know whether you have COVID-19, you should behave as if you have it and quarantine yourself away from others. 

In some cases, you may receive a false-negative test result. If your test comes back negative but you are displaying all the symptoms of COVID-19, your doctor may still diagnose you with COVID-19. 

Treatments for COVID-19

Most people can recover from COVID-19 at home. As long as you can breathe comfortably and your temperature does not rise too high, you can treat COVID-19 the same way you would the flu. Stay home, get plenty of rest and fluids, and avoid others to prevent further infections. 

Call 911 or go to the emergency room if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Inability to stay awake
  • Bluish face or lips
  • Pain or pressure in the chest
  • Trouble breathing

While there is no cure for COVID-19, there are treatments that your doctor may provide if you become ill enough to be hospitalized. These treatments include antiviral medications, dexamethasone, antibodies from patients who have recovered from COVID-19, and other medications to treat damage to your heart, brain, blood vessels, and other organs caused by COVID-19. 

There are also ongoing clinical trials to identify new treatments.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/1/2021
References
SOURCES:

BBC News: "Covid symptoms: What are they and how do I protect myself?"

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "CDC Diagnostic Tests for COVID-19."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Interim Clinical Guidance for Management of Patients with Confirmed Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "People with Certain Medical Conditions."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Symptoms of Coronavirus."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Treatments Your Healthcare Provider Might Recommend for Severe Illness."

St. Jude Hospital: "Fever and COVID-19."

UC Davis Health: "Novel coronavirus symptoms."

World Health Organization: "Coronavirus: Prevention."

World Health Organization: "Coronavirus: Symptoms."