It’s time to recognise that there might be more Covid-19 symptoms than we think
When Matt Hancock returned to work after recovering from Covid-19, he told the BBC about the “Incredibly painful throat” that had been one of his main symptoms.
“It was like having glass in (there),” said the Health Secretary.
But when I got a sore throat just over a week ago, I didn’t immediately think: Coronavirus.
I thought it was just a passing thing, possibly hay fever. It was fine the next day, but then came back much worse – accompanied now by an aching in my limbs that reached to my fingertips.
I tried to watch telly with the family, but I was grumpy, and my wife ended up sending me to bed.
And, just in case, she told me to sleep in the top room on my own.
I asked her to drop off some medicines, books, my tablet and a pile of clothes, then I lay down and took a good look at my new home.
Better get used to it, I thought: unless I recovered very soon, I was looking at a seven-day, self-isolation stretch.
Although I was ill during a pandemic, it didn’t look like I had the Coronavirus”
By Thursday, I was feeling worse than I had for years, in the middle of a fast-growing pandemic. But although I was ill, it just didn’t look like I had the Coronavirus.
I may have been scared and in pain, feeling that my throat was about to close up, but I didn’t have any of the official three main symptoms.
I didn’t (1) have a temperature, although I sometimes felt hot and sweaty.
I didn’t (2) have a cough and – although I remembered not really enjoying my food shortly before I started feeling rotten – I hadn’t (3) lost my sense of taste and smell, either.
Coronavirus was still out there: maybe I’d let my guard down, just the once?”
The number of Covid-19 cases was going down where I live, which made it still more unlikely that I’d caught it. But Coronavirus was still out there: maybe I’d let my guard down, just the once?
After all, I was the one who went out most of the four people in my family – shopping, exercising, or a combination of both. Perhaps I’d forgotten to sanitise my hands, then touched my face?
Or maybe I’d caught it from someone infected, who’d reached across me to grab something in the shops – the kind of social distancing breach that happens more and more with every passing week in lockdown.
As my tonsils were by now red and scratched-looking, I searched for tonsillitis on the NHS website. “A sore throat and pain when swallowing”, earache and a headache more closely matched my symptoms than the official ones for Covid-19.
By now, it had been almost a week since my symptoms started, and I knew I couldn’t keep wondering what was wrong with me.
I couldn’t keep taking the maximum daily dose of ibuprofen and paracetamol: I needed to do something, or talk to someone.
But should I call my GP about tonsillitis? Or 111 online about Coronavirus? In the end, I did both.
Even though I didn’t have the main symptoms of Coronavirus, it was still very possible that I could have it”
I booked a test for Covid-19 and then phoned my GP to arrange some back-up antibiotics, in case the test came back negative.
And my doctor told me something about my symptoms that suddenly explained everything – it’s characteristic of viruses to impact differently on individuals, and produce a wide range of reactions.
So, one man’s sore throat might well be another woman’s fever, or difficulty breathing.
Even though I didn’t have the main symptoms of the Coronavirus, it was still very possible that I could have it.
As I write this, I’m still waiting for the results of my Covid-19 test to come in.
I’m feeling much better, but I’m personally more convinced than ever that Coronavirus was what made me so ill last week.
The more we learn about the virus, the more it appears that it may produce a greater variety of symptoms than the Big Three alone.”
And, the more we learn more about the virus, the more it appears that it may produce a greater variety of symptoms than the Big Three alone.
Luke Harding wrote in The Guardian recently that: “There is evidence that the official NHS description of the virus’s symptoms – coughs, fever, loss of taste/smell – is too narrow”, and that people were reporting a far wider range of reactions.
These included chest and stomach pain, acid reflux and shortness of breath, while there was also worrying evidence that the virus could trouble some of those who caught it for months afterwards.
Harding quotes Julia Hammond, a Manchester doctor who caught Covid-19 early on, as saying: “It seems quite different in each person. There’s not a standard progression.”
Another doctor, Tracy Briggs, said: “I felt hot and sweaty but I didn’t have a documented high temperature. I think there is a need to recognise that the clinical symptoms are much wider than cough and fever.”