Is Headache A Symptom of Coronavirus Disease?

The original three symptoms of COVID-19 were listed as fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. So the question ‘is headache a symptom of coronavirus disease?’ fits right into this blog topic. As the weeks have passed, and more people are able to take a COVID-19 antibody test, physicians and scientists have observed more than the original three symptoms in patients world-wide. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 shares that Chinese researchers identified these additional symptoms and percentages in COVID-19 patients: 

  • 99% of patients experienced fever
  • 70% were tired and had little energy 
  • 59% coughed without mucus 
  • 40% lost their appetite for food
  • 35% experienced overall achy muscles
  • 31% were short of breath
  • 27% had mucus 

WebMD discusses an International Forum of Allergy and Rhinology study that found that 68% of COVID-19 patients had decreased sense of smell and 71% experienced loss of taste. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adds these additional symptoms: chills which can be so severe as to cause shaking all over, muscle pains, headache, and sore throat

So, the question ‘is headache a symptom of coronavirus disease?’ receives an answer of Yes.

And while many of the symptoms listed above will make you feel varying degrees of sick, there are some really serious symptoms. The doctors do not have all the answers on how the virus can cause such serious illness in previously healthy people. 

Call 911 for medical help if someone experiences these COVID-19 symptoms

If a person has difficulty breathing, becomes confused, or becomes blue around his lips, face or fingernails, immediate medical care (911) may be needed.

People with COVID-19 having strokes

Doctors have recognized that COVID-19 can cause blood clots and strokes, even in young adults. This life-threatening development is affecting COVID-19 patients as young as 30. A stroke should be considered a medical emergency (call  911 for emergency services).  Remember the FAST test and call for immediate medical care. A quick response brings the best chances of recovery. 

FAST is a quick test for stroke symptoms:  

  • F stands for Face. Does the person’s face droop on one side? Ask him to smile. Is his smile ‘crooked’ where one side of his mouth droops when he tries to smile?  
  • A refers to Arms. Ask the person to lift his arms. Can he raise both arms evenly and hold them up or does one arm sag? Is either arm numb or weak?
  • S stands for Speech. Ask the person to speak and repeat a sentence you say. Is his speech garbled or difficult to understand (or as he could previously)? 
  • T stands for Time. Call for medical help (911) for abnormal signs to the FAST test.

COVID-19 resulting in heart damage for some people

The COVID-19 virus is causing heart and blood vessel damage in some patients, weakening the heart muscle, causing heart attacks and strokes due to small blood clots and arrhythmias. 

According to the Harvard University Gazette, there are several ways a person can experience cardiac (heart) problems from the COVID-19 infection:

  • People with pre-existing cardiac problems are at increased risk of cardiac and stroke symptoms due to the blood clotting problem.  
  • People with no previous heart condition have been showing up with heart symptoms. 

The fever and inflammatory process brought on from the COVID-19 infection can cause 

problems in previously healthy people.  

  • The respiratory distress experienced by some COVID-19 patients causes them to need more oxygen than they can breath in, causing stress and potential damage to the heart muscle. 
  • The researchers believe the COVID-19 virus can attack the heart muscle itself

COVID causing kidney damage for some people

Another serious consequence on the COVID-19 illness is kidney damage. For some patients, the kidney filtering cells are damaged. This is called acute kidney injury. Early reports from China found 3-9% of COVID-19 patients had decreased kidney function called acute kidney injury (AKI). AKI is now identified in 15 to 20% of hospitalized patients. Many of the sickest patients who need intensive care unit (ICU) care end up needing dialysis. Whether the patients who deal with AKI and need dialysis acutely will experience full recovery of their kidney function, no one knows. They should be monitored by a nephrologist (kidney specialist) after their illness and until their function returns to normal.

Maybe you’ve heard of “COVID toes.” This purple colored rash on a person’s fingers or toes is thought to be the result of the inflammatory process that COVID-19 causes in some people.

COVID toes has been reported by the American Academy of Dermatology as a possible COVID-19 symptom. COVID toes have been described as looking frostbitten or exposed to cold temperatures. The rash that accompanies COVID toes can vary in appearance. It can look reddened, swollen, and be itchy like hives. It can look like chicken-pox eruptions. COVID toes have been reported in both young and older individuals. Several examples of COVID toes can be found on the WebMD website

So, as we think of the COVID-19 symptoms, we remember that the COVID-19 is a new (novel) virus which has alarmed us and surprised doctors as they work hard to care for patients and save lives. So what can we do to protect ourselves? Practice social distancing, wear a mask, keep your hands off your face (especially if you have touched potentially infectious items) and wash our hands often. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water isn’t available. Remember, the COVID-19 virus cannot hurt us until it enters our bodies (nose, eyes and mouth are easily accessible to the virus). 

When searching for accurate medical information, use reputable medical websites such as CDC, WebMD, and Cleveland Clinic. They provide trustworthy and up-to-date information about COVID-19. We recommend that people use reputable websites rather than internet gossip when dealing with their health, including the COVID-19 pandemic.