COVID toe has been identified as a ‘long COVID’ symptom – expert reveals how to spot it

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Coronavirus daily graphs paint a dispiriting picture; after a lull in the summer, the UK is on a sharp upwards trajectory. The dismal state of affairs has forced the government to enact a second national lockdown. It is a move that the Prime Minister has long resisted but now deems necessary to suppress transmission.

Amid the snowballing crisis, an unofficially recognised term has been doing the rounds – ‘long COVID’.

What is it?

“Firstly, it’s important to know that ‘long COVID’ is not an official medical term, but a colloquial term being used to describe people whose symptoms go on for longer than the two-week symptom period officially recognised by WHO,” explained Dr Ben Littlewood-Hillsdon, Chief Medical Officer of leading symptom assessment tool Doctorlink.

One of the more unusual symptoms to fall under this category is COVID toe.

According to research conducted by the International League of Dermatological Societies and the American Academy of Dermatology, COVID toe can last for months at a time.

The scientists found that the condition typically develops within a week to four weeks of being infected.

So, what is it?

According to Dr Littlewood-Hillsdon, COVID toe generally refers to a swelling and discolouration that appears on toes.

This swelling and discolouration can also extend to one or several fingers, he said.

“Along with the swelling and discolouration, it has also been reported that COVID toe can cause purple lesions and blisters along with a persistent itch,” said Dr Littlewood-Hillsdon.

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According to Dr Littlewood-Hillsdon, some patients have also reported painful raised bumps or patches of rough skin.

How to treat COVID toe

“COVID toe and other COVID related rashes will disappear without treatment,” he said.

However, patients have been reporting symptoms lasting from 10 days up to many months when they have refrained from seeking medical help, noted Dr Littlewood-Hillsdon.

Current knowledge about the causes of COVID toe

“Doctors think it could be the result of inflammation, which has been linked to coronavirus,” said Dr Littlewood-Hillsdon.

As he explained, others have also suggested that rashes can become common when patients are fighting viral infections or when being treated with a course of antibiotics.

“However, the root cause of COVID toe is still not clear and its link to the virus remains circumstantial,” said Dr Littlewood-Hillsdon.

“If patients have tested positive for COVID-19 and are experiencing either a rash or ‘COVID toe’, it is important that they contact their GP practice as this will help Doctors to increase their understanding of the virus and the associated symptoms that can present in different cases,” he added.

According to Dr Littlewood-Hillsdon, other long COVID symptoms include:

  • Tiredness People suspected of suffering with long COVID are reporting ongoing fatigue and extreme tiredness. Some have reported struggling to carry out even basic activities such as walking up the stairs.
  • Aches and pains Muscle aches and pains are a commonly experienced symptom of COVID-19 – if your limbs are still feeling achy and heavy weeks or months after your diagnoses, you may be experiencing long COVID Cognitive problems – whilst cognitive problems is not a recognised symptom of the virus, there is increasing evidence that brain fog, concentration difficulties and memory loss may be long-term effects of COVID-19. These have been reported in patients both young and old.
  • Breathlessness – research teams are seeing a good proportion of people reporting ongoing respiratory problems such as breathlessness in the weeks and months after first experiencing symptoms.
  • Dry cough – a new, persistent, dry cough was one of the first recognised symptoms of COVID-19, which a large number of people are reporting to continue past the typical two-week recovery period.
  • Loss of taste or smell- another WHO recognised symptom is a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. This means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal. Some people suspected of suffering with long COVID have reported the persistence of this symptom.

How should I respond to COVID-19 symptoms?

According to UK health advice, if you have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19, get a test as soon as possible.

You and anyone you live with should stay at home and not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.

Anyone in your support bubble should also stay at home if you have been in close contact with them since your symptoms started or during the 48 hours before they started.

A support bubble is where someone who lives alone (or just with their children) can meet people from one other household.

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