Covid toes could be mistaken for condition you get from the cold

While there are new Covid variants circulating, symptoms have generally remained the same. Symptoms, still listed by the NHS, include a continuous cough, a high temperature, shortness of breath, unexplained tiredness and muscle aches.

But last year, a study found a link between Covid and chilblain-like inflammation and redness in the hands and feet. Chilblains are small, itchy patches that can appear on your skin after you’ve been in the cold, therefore common during this time of year.

The study, published in the British Journal Dermatology, named the phenomenon as ‘Covid toes’, suggesting it could be a symptom of the virus.

So how do you know if you’ve got Covid or chilblains?

Chilblains usually appear a few hours after you’ve been in the cold, says the NHS. They usually go away on their own in two to three weeks.

Covid toes typically develop within a week to four weeks being infected with the virus, and feet return to their normal condition within weeks. But according to pediatric infectious disease specialist Frank Esper, while Covid toes are attention-grabbing and unusual, they’re quite rare and aren’t signs of life-threatening complications.

He told the Cleveland Clinic: “These symptoms may be more common in COVID-19 compared with other viral infections, but they don’t affect a majority of people by any means.”

Dr Esper said it’s actually quite common for people to get rashes when they’re battling infections, especially viral respiratory ones. He said: “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 measles, for example. And medications sometimes cause skin rashes, too. This can happen with measles, for example. And medications sometimes cause skin rashes, too.”

If you’re concerned you have Covid toes or a Covid rash, the first thing to do is to see if you have the virus, advises the Cleveland Clinic. The best way to do this is to do a lateral flow test.

If the test is negative and the symptoms persist, it may be worth contacting your GP.

The more common symptoms of Covid are:

  • continuous cough
  • high temperature, fever or chills
  • loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell
  • shortness of breath
  • unexplained tiredness, lack of energy
  • muscle aches or pains that are not due to exercise
  • not wanting to eat or not feeling hungry
  • headache that’s unusual or longer lasting than usual
  • sore throat, stuffy or runny nose
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling sick or being sick

For most people a Covid infection can be treated by keeping hydrated with fluids like water, getting plenty of rest, and taking over-the-counter medications like paracetamol.

But you should call 999 or go to A&E if you or your child experience the following:

  • seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there’s something seriously wrong – children and babies in particular can get unwell very quickly
  • gets sudden chest pain
  • is so breathless they’re unable to say short sentences when resting, or breathing suddenly gets worse – in babies their stomach may suck under their ribs
  • starts coughing up blood
  • collapses, faints, or has a seizure or fit for the first time
  • has a rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it, the same as meningitis

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