Health A to Z Last updated on 2022-02-07 11:36:19
Diarrhea and Covid-19: How Long Does It Last?
- Dr. Abhishtita Mudunuri
- 2 Min Read
- Fact Checked
IntroductionDiarrhea and Covid-19: How long does it last? Diarrhea isn't a prevalent symptom of Covid-19. Still, the likelihood of having it increases with age — Only 10% of children, 21% of adults aged 16 to 35, and 30% of people over 35 have reported symptoms of diarrhea. Further, only 2% of people infected with Covid-19 reported diarrhea as their only symptom*.
Covid affects more than your respiratory system; it affects your digestive systemThe primary way the Covid virus enters your digestive system is by binding to specific ACE2 protein receptors found in the small intestines. These proteins are abundant in the gut and lung cells, providing a hook and an entry point for the virus which causes digestive problems. Read more on the effect of Covid-19 on human physiology.
How long does it last?Chaoqun et al. conducted a fascinating study in 2020 about the correlation between Covid-19 and diarrhea in patients. The team studied patients with only respiratory symptoms and those that also had digestive symptoms. They observed the following:
(1) Patients with digestive symptoms are more likely to harbor the virus longer in them than those with only respiratory symptoms., i.e., they have a higher viral load or burden. (There are a significantly higher number of ACE2 receptors in the gut, namely the small intestine, duodenum, and colon, than lungs).
(2) Due to the high viral load in their gut, patients with digestive symptoms are at a greater risk of suffering from direct damage to their gut mucosa.
(3) Further, patients with digestive symptoms are more likely to test positive for Covid-19 viral RNA in their stool — that means they can infect others with their feces, sometimes through faulty drainage systems, too.However, there is no data yet on the severity of Covid diarrhea, and the diarrhea should go away in three to five days.
What to do if you have gastrointestinal problems?Most instances of diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting are not from Covid-19. So just because you have diarrhea doesn't necessarily mean it's from Covid-19. Speak with your doctor if your symptoms are severe or persist for more than three days. Read more on what to eat if you already suffer from a gastrointestinal problem, such as IBS-D.
When to see a doctor?Even though Covid has become less severe than before, it does not mean that you let your guards down. We may be entering the endemic phase, but experts warn that the prospects of an "end" are still far away. You should continue following all safety protocols, such as washing hands and wearing masks. You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you show the following symptoms:
(1) Diarrhea that persists for more than three days.
(2) High fever > 102ºF
(3) Frequent vomiting
(4) Difficulty breathing
(5) Symptoms of dehydration and
(6) Black or bloody stools
ConclusionGastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea can have many causes other than Covid-19. You can treat digestive symptoms of Covid-19, such as diarrhea from your home, by eating the right food for diarrhea. Speak to a doctor if your diarrhea persists for more than three days. Continue practicing all safety protocols such as washing hands, social distancing, and wearing masks.
References:- Is diarrhea a symptom of Covid-19?* (1) - Digestive symptoms in Covid-19 patients (2) - Diarrhea and other GI symptoms of Covid-19 (3)
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