Bowel related problems from Covid-19 can be treated at home in some cases. In this article, we show you that while problems affecting the gut may be less common symptoms of Covid, they can still make you feel very unwell. Someone expressed surprised to hear that diarrhoea could be related to Covid-19, but after we shared our findings, they thought otherwise.
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Learn more about Covid-19 here.
What Symptoms Do You Expect From Covid-19 ?
As we know, the Covid-19 infection is primarily a respiratory illness due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
We are familliar with the more common symptoms of Covid such as a fever (body temperature over 37.8 degrees) and a dry continuous cough.
Among some of the less-known symptoms are bowel-related symptoms from Covid-19 such as
- Nausea (the feeling of wanting to vomit) and
- Abdominal cramps.
How We Learned About Bowel-related Problems from Covid-19
This soon became apparent after people who presented with symptoms of diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting also tested positive for Covid-19 and none of the other common infectious causes of diarrhoea.
As we saw more patients like this, it became clear that diarrhoea and other bowel symptoms were also features of Covid-19.
In some patients, diarrhoea may be the initial presenting symptoms.
In others - there may not even be the cough, fever, or breathing difficulty associated with SARS-CoV-2 as happened in some cases reported from China.
There were reports of people with loose stools happening three or four times a day (or more).
Other problems like general abdominal cramps with or without nausea and vomiting were frequent, too.
Can Diarrhoea Happen In A (Mainly) Respiratory Illness?
Yes this is possible.
As previous studies reveal: about 30% of patients with the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrom - in 2012) and 10.6% of those with the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome - in 2002) infections had diarrhoea and other bowel conditions.
A lot of the time, these bowel-related symptoms from Covid-19 are mild or moderate. This means they can be treated with good results at home.
It is important, though to be aware that these symptoms could get worse quickly and require hospital assessment.
Tips For Dealing With Bowel-Related Problems From Covid-19
So how do we manage people with bowel symptoms - and who are well enough to remain at home?
Well, the key thing to know is that no matter the cause of diarrhoea, without replacing fluids, dehydration and kidney injury will result.
So the important thing for people experiencing frequent loose stools in the context of Covid-19 is to help keep them well hydrated.
This means taking fluids like water and other clear liquids such as dilute lemonade or other dilute juices.
Oral rehydration salt (ORS); (also known as Dioralyte or Salt & Sugar solution) is a therapy for diarrhoea - mixing the salts with water provides a suitable liquid to replace the losses from the bowels.
The most important thing to do is prevent dehydration.
This is by replacing fluids lost in the illness with the fluids.
It also means avoiding very rich (oily or spicy) foods, dairy, or others that could further irritate sensitive bowels.
Many people suffer appetite loss or remain too tired to eat.
However, taking fluids helps replace the loss from diarrhoea and from the sweat through fever.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are treated with anti-vomiting medicines if severe.
Rest in between episodes of vomiting, taking only very small sips of water to rinse the tongue.
When your tummy is more settled, start with plain water in small volume at a time.
If that stays down, you may advance to dilute drinks including ORS, blackcurrant or lemonade.
Avoid rich or fizzy drinks including concentrated juice drinks, soft drinks, dairy like yoghurt.
These accompany diarrhoea or vomiting episodes as a result of the effect of the infection on the stomach and intestines.
They usually cause moderate discomfort; cases of severe pain are uncommon and should prompt urgent medical attention.
If it is difficult to control diarrhoea, or a person is having several episodes of stooling over a short period of time then seek urgent medical attention.
This also applies to a person who vomits repeatedly and cannot keep anything down in the stomach.
Both are at serious risk of dehydration without treatment which can lead to complications like kidney injury.
Most cases of bowel involvement last a few days after which the symptoms start to resolve.
If you have any more questions about this topic, ask here.
Learn more about Self-Isolation here
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
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