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If your hiccups won’t go away, there’s a chance you could have COVID-19

Published Dec 28th, 2020 11:58AM EST
Coronavirus Symptoms
  • Coronavirus symptoms aren’t the same for everyone. The most common symptoms can mimic the flu or a common cold, but there are plenty of unusual manifestations of COVID-19.
  • Two people in different parts of the world experienced a very odd symptom without showing any of the common signs of COVID-19 that most people experience.
  • The patients came to the hospital with persistent hiccups that lasted several days. Additional tests indicated the patients might be infected with SARS-CoV-2, and PCR tests confirmed as much.

The novel coronavirus has surprised us at every turn. COVID-19 was compared to the flu initially because of the symptoms some people experienced. As time passed, it became clear that the novel coronavirus wasn’t like the flu, and flu-like symptoms aren’t the only clinical manifestations of the infectious disease.

Some people came to the hospital with brain and heart problems that turned out to be caused by the novel virus. Doctors then observed all sorts of strange symptoms, with the sudden loss of smell and taste being the most prevalent. While a PCR test is required for a positive diagnosis, losing these two senses is a good indication that a person might have COVID-19. Skin lesions, hearing problems, and eye issues were also observed. As the months passed, we were trained to expect all sorts of unusual signs. Some of these strange symptoms, like losing teeth without pain or bleeding, occurred well after the infection had passed in what is now being referred to as Long COVID.

A year later, COVID-19 still has some surprises left in store for us. A new paper describes the case of a man who came to the ER for a very rare type of condition, which turned out to be COVID-19.

Mohamed Zahran from the Alexandria University College of Medicine published a case report on Research Square of a 64-year old male who experienced persistent hiccups for 72 hours before coming to the clinic.

“He is nonsmoker with no other comorbidities or past history of pulmonary disease,” the paper reads. “He had no other symptoms like dyspnea, cough, or fever.” The doctors found mild rhonchi, a particular type of pulmonary sound found while listening to the lungs during a regular checkup. A chest x-ray was performed, turning up ground-glass opacities that appear in COVID-19 patients were spotted. Both lungs were affected. Blood tests that followed returned leucopenia, or a decrease in white blood cells, which has also been observed in COVID-19 patients.

At that point, COVID-19 was suspected, and the patient was transferred to the isolation hospital. The PCR test came positive. The patient was stable throughout his stay, and received only symptomatic treatment. The hiccups improved after 7 days, and he was discharged on the 14th day after the second PCR test came back negative.

“To our knowledge, this is the second case report of persistent hiccups as an atypical presentation of COVID-19,” the researcher wrote in the case report, which you can read here. A similar occurrence happened with a 62-year-old man who experienced four days of persistent hiccups. X-rays and CT scans that followed showed ground-glass opacities scattered through that patient’s lungs as well. The patient also had a lower white blood count than usual.

The hiccup phenomenon isn’t completely understood, despite being a common manifestation. However, when the symptom persists for several days, it might require medical attention.

“It is crucial for the otolaryngologist to be familiar with the atypical presentations of COVID-19,” the paper reads. “Early recognition of COVID-19 facilitates subsequent management and case isolation to eliminate the risk of viral transmission. COVID-19 should be considered in the differential diagnosis of any case of persistent hiccups.”

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.