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Nurse warns of key coronavirus symptom she’s seen in all patients

Published Mar 26th, 2020 12:44PM EDT
coronavirus symptoms
Image: Gerry Broome/AP/Shutterstock

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  • Red, puffy eyes may be a warning sign of coronavirus infection, according to a nurse who says she saw the symptom in every one of the patients she’s dealt with. 
  • Coronavirus presents a variety of symptoms, though many of them are nonspecific and could be linked to any number of conditions, including the flu and allergies. 
  • Red eyes have not been widely reported in coronavirus patients, but could prove to be another early indicator for doctors. 
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

A nurse in Kirkland, Washington who has been caring for coronavirus patients noticed something in all of them that hasn’t been widely reported as a common symptom. Chelsey Earnest of the Life Care Center told CNN that every patient she’s seen who tested positive for coronavirus had red eyes.

The phenomenon, which Earnest refers to as “allergy eyes,” became a reliable way for staff, including doctors, to identify patients who were in dire need of care. The Life Care Center in Kirkland has been devastated by the virus, and Earnest has seen more than her fair share of tragedy, with at least 37 deaths linked to the spread of the virus at the facility.

Many of the symptoms of coronavirus are vague and nonspecific. Things like dry cough and sore throat could come from just about anything, including the seasonal flu and allergies, both of which are at their peak as we enter Spring. The more severe cases include symptoms like shortness of breath and chest pain, which are much more serious and should be red flags that a viral infection may be the cause.

“It’s something that I witnessed in all of them,” Earnest told CNN. “They have, like … allergy eyes. The white part of the eye is not red. It’s more like they have red eye shadow on the outside of their eyes. We’ve had patients that just had the red eyes as the only symptom that we saw and go to the hospital and pass away.”

“I’ve even had the disaster medical control physician say, ‘Do they have the red eyes?’ And I will say yes. And he’ll say, ‘I’ll find you a bed.’ It’s just something about this, the way that it affects these patients,” she added.

Unfortunately, red eyes can also be caused by any number of things, including allergies or even crying. It’s not a clear indicator of whether or not someone indeed has a COVID-19 infection, but the fact that so many coronavirus patients exhibited this symptom — at least in this specific location — means that it may be worth additional investigation by researchers.

As always, if you fear you’ve become ill, contact your doctor via phone to work out the next steps. If your symptoms are mild, you’ll likely be asked to remain home, but if severe symptoms are present a trip to the hospital and/or emergency room may be in your future. Stay safe!

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