The CDC’s list of common coronavirus symptoms may seem pretty straightforward. However, due to the fact that all of them overlap with many other common ailments, illnesses, and viruses, it can be a little difficult to know whether you are suffering from coronavirus or something else. “There are many symptoms that are possible symptoms of COIVD-19 but they can also be symptoms of other problems,” Matthew Cook, MD, founder of BioReset Medical, explains to Eat This, Not That! Health. Here are 10 symptoms of COVID-19 that might be something else.
We know that COVID-19 can attack the upper respiratory tract and sometimes irritate the eyes. “While this may be true, dry air, dust, seasonal allergies, and sun exposure are very common causes of irritated eyes,” explains Dr. Cook, who points out that this is a much more likely scenario than coronavirus. “Patients can also have irritated eyes from food sensitivities, from the common cold and also from bacterial and viral infections,” he adds.
Another common symptom of COVID-19 is shortness of breath, which Dr. Cook maintains can also be due to many other things. “Shortness of breath can be caused by asthmatic changes, heart conditions including heart failure, and by a relatively extreme response to seasonal allergies and food allergies,” he explains. Additionally, some patients can have acid reflux that can lead to asthmatic changes that can cause shortness of breath.
Are you burning up? While your first response might be to think it’s COVID-19, a body temperature spike isn’t necessarily due to the virus. “A fever is often an attempt by the immune system to increase the temperature of the body so that the temperature helps the body fight the infection,” Dr. Cook explains. “Often a virus other than the coronavirus or a bacterial infection can be the cause of a fever.” Other causes of fever include heat exhaustion and heat exposure.
In addition to fever and shortness of breath, fatigue is a common symptom of COVID-19 that some patients worry about. However, there are many causes of fatigue, Dr. Cook points out, one of the most common being lack of sleep. “Viral infections can cause fatigue and it’s common that viral infections other than COVID-19 can also cause it,” he explains. “These include chronic infections such as Epstein Barr virus as well as other viral infections—one of the more common is cytomegalovirus. Chronic infections and stealth infections are very common causes of fatigue. These include gastrointestinal parasitic infections, gastrointestinal dysbiosis, high levels of mold and mycotoxins in the body, and chronic infections such as Lyme disease.”
One of the hallmark signals of COVID-19 is a loss of taste or smell. “While we know that COVID-19 can cause this, it can also be caused by a regular cold or flu, a sinus infection, a head injury, or hormonal changes,” says Dr. Cook. “In fact, it is also commonly seen in Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease and can occasionally happen from a nutritional deficiency.”
Skin rashes have been reported with a small number of coronavirus patients, but keep in mind that they are much more common of other ailments—such as “gastrointestinal infections and with a broad set of symptoms that are correlated with leaky gut,” Dr. Cook points out. Other GI causes of skin sensitivity include food sensitivities, particularly gluten. It could also be due to a dysregulated immune system, which can develop chemical sensitivities and sensitivities to detergents, soaps and cosmetics. “We found that this is particularly true with cases of immune system problems and gastrointestinal problems,” he says. Sometimes stress is also a cause of skin rashes.
An achy body and muscles can signify you are battling COVID-19. However, Dr. Cook says there are many other causes of body aches including dehydration, lack of sleep, and the regular flu. “We also see these symptoms in certain chronic viral infections including Epstein Barr as well as Lyme disease,” he adds.
Digestive problems are a relatively common symptom of coronavirus, due to the fact that the virus can also attack the upper respiratory tract and also affect the lower respiratory tract. When it does, it can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. “While COVID-19 is certainly a cause of these symptoms, the most common causes are from other problems in the gastrointestinal system,” he points out. “There’s a bacteria that lives in the stomach that can cause these symptoms, it is called Helicobacter pylori. There are also two conditions where there is an overgrowth of fungus or bacteria in the small intestine. This can cause gas and bloating which can lead to upper abdominal discomfort and can also cause nausea and vomiting. These are also cases of leaky gut and uncomfortable abdomen.”
Another very common complaint with COVID-19 is a dry cough. “While this virus is certainly known to cause cough, there are many other conditions including other viruses such as other Coronaviruses and flu viruses which can cause a cold,” Dr. Cook points out. In addition to viral infections, bacterial infections are well known causes of infections in the airway, either in the lungs or throat. Acid reflux, asthma, and COPD are also common causes for a cough.
The final area that has been associated with COVID-19 is the symptom of headache. “While the virus can cause a headache, headaches are commonly caused by a wide variety of problems,” says Dr. Cook. These include: dehydration, stress, sometimes depression and asthma as well as food sensitivities. “Additionally, there are several classes of headaches that are intrinsic to the brain including migraine headaches and cluster headaches,” he says. “We sometimes see patients who have compression of the occipital nerve at the back of the head. Compression of this nerve can cause a headache that starts at the back of the neck and wraps around the head. Patients can also have problems with their sinuses that can lead to headaches.”
If you experience any of the symptoms listed in this story, tell your medical professional and discuss whether or not you should get a COVID-19 test. Although hard to find in certain cities when the virus first struck these shores, tests are becoming more available every day. However, not all tests can discover the virus. Since there is no way to be 100% sure that you have the coronavirus, it’s best to quarantine yourself if you think you do.
As to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.