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Watch out for this rash, which could be the first sign of a coronavirus infection

Published Feb 1st, 2021 4:14PM EST
COVID Symptoms First
Image: Fabian/Adobe

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  • A University hospital study from Spain suggests that a rash can sometimes be the first sign of a coronavirus infection.
  • A similar study from the UK found that 17% of COVID patients experienced a rash as their first symptom.

According to new research from the University Hospital 12 de Octubre in Madrid, Spain, the sudden appearance of a rash could be an early sign of a COVID-19 infection. The study, which was recently published in The American Journal of Surgical Pathology, specifically looked at coronavirus patients between March and April of 2020 and found that some patients noticed a rash before more common symptoms like cough and fever manifested.

The incidence of rash among COVID-19 patients, however, doesn’t appear to be too common. To this point, the CDC doesn’t list a rash on its list of official symptoms. That notwithstanding, it’s still something to be on the lookout for if you think you might have been exposed to the coronavirus.

If this all sounds familiar, some COVID-19 patients have experienced COVID toes, a symptom where rash or itchy bumps appear on the skin, but primarily in the foot area.

As to why some people might see a rash when infected with COVID, Dr. Humberto Choi explains via the Cleveland Clinic:

It’s not uncommon for someone to have a viral infection and have a rash or blotchy areas on their body. This can happen with other viral respiratory infections like measles.

Meanwhile, a UK study on COVID patients carried out last year argues that skin rash should be viewed as an early coronavirus symptom:

Researchers discovered that 8.8% of people reporting a positive coronavirus swab test had experienced a skin rash as part of their symptoms, compared with 5.4% of people with a negative test result. Similar results were seen in a further 8.2% of users with a rash who did not have a coronavirus test, but still reported classic COVID-19 symptoms, such as cough, fever or anosmia (loss of smell).

17% of respondents testing positive for coronavirus reported a rash as the first symptom of the disease. And for one in five people (21%) who reported a rash and were confirmed as being infected with coronavirus, the rash was their only symptom.

Dr. Choi, meanwhile, takes an opposing view and writes that a rash should not be the main symptom people should be on the lookout for:

These symptoms seem to be more common in COVID-19 compared with all other viral infections. But at this time, they haven’t affected a majority of people. So, the symptoms that people should be looking for are really a fever, cough and muscle aches that you can get when you have a viral infection. Those are the most common symptoms — and those are the things that people should be keeping on their radar.

The full list of common coronavirus symptoms, per the CDC, reads as follows:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

To date, the U.S. has seen 26.2 million coronavirus cases and 441,296 associated deaths.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.