Many people are surprised to learn that gastrointestinal symptoms are one of the most common early signs of Covid-19. But the virus attacks intestinal cells the same way it targets respiratory cells. So, some people experience GI issues like diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and abdominal pain on top of respiratory symptoms.
Here’s what to do if you experience diarrhea as a side effect of Covid-19. Plus, how Dr. B can help those at high risk for severe illness get same-day prescription treatment with a $15 online consultation.
Not everyone will experience the same symptoms when they get a Covid-19 infection. And symptoms can differentiate slightly depending on which strain is circulating. But the virus can affect many parts of your body and cause symptoms including:
The SARS-CoV-2 virus causes Covid-19. It has a special spike on its surface. The shape of that spike allows it to latch onto a protein on the surface of cells in your body called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE 2). When the virus attaches to ACE 2 proteins, it tricks cells into letting it inside.
The respiratory tract is full of cells with ACE 2 proteins. But you can find cells with ACE 2 proteins in the heart, kidneys, reproductive organs and digestive tract. That’s why Covid-19 can cause symptoms in so many different parts of the body.
When Covid-19 attacks cells in the stomach and intestines, it can cause inflammation and tissue damage. It also disrupts the normal gut bacteria that help with digestion. Together, this can lead to symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.
Many different illnesses cause diarrhea. Certain medications can as well—including those used to treat Covid. And some people develop diarrhea from stress and anxiety, which could increase if they’re worried about Covid-19.
Other potential causes of diarrhea include:
How do you know what’s causing your diarrhea? One clue is whether you’re having other symptoms. Covid-19 usually causes additional symptoms like a cough, sore throat or fever.
Talk to your provider if you’re concerned or if your diarrhea is severe or lasts longer than two days. They can take samples of your poop to test for parasites, viruses or bacteria. They can also recommend treatments to avoid dehydration or other complications.
Most cases of diarrhea clear up on their own in a few days. But you can manage diarrhea at home by following these steps:
Talk to your healthcare provider before taking over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medicines (like Loperamide or bismuth subsalicylate). If your diarrhea is caused by bacteria or a parasite, they can make it harder for your body to get rid of the source of the infection.
Occasionally, diarrhea can lead to dehydration or other problems. Get help if you’re concerned, or if your symptoms are severe or don’t improve after a few days.
Call your provider right away if you notice:
Most people recover from Covid-19 without any complications. And the Covid-19 vaccine means that fewer people are getting severely sick. But unvaccinated people, those over 50, babies and young children and people with weakened immune systems or some health conditions are more likely to get seriously ill from Covid. Take extra precautions around those people, like testing yourself for Covid-19 before meeting them indoors and wearing a protective mask around them.
If your symptoms are mild and you’re not at high risk for severe illness, recovering from Covid-19 at home is generally safe. But if you’re at high risk and have an active infection, treatment options include Paxlovid and Molnupiravir—antiviral medications by mouth at home.
You need to start these medications within 5 days of your first symptoms. (Earlier is better!) So, if you’re at high risk and have an active infection, come to Dr. B for same-day Covid-19 treatment. We’re available 365 days a year to anyone within the United States. Start a $15 online consultation today!
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