Is Diarrhea A COVID-19 Symptom?


Posted By Author on May 26, 2022

Early diagnosis is key in preventing the spread of COVID-19. That is why it is important to recognize the symptoms! Read on to learn more about what to watch for.

Is Diarrhea a COVID-19 symptom?

While considered a rare symptom, diarrhea could potentially point to COVID-19. If you are experiencing diarrhea, consult your gastroenterologist. A qualified GI specialist can help distinguish between regular diarrhea and COVID-related gastrointestinal concerns. Remember, recognizing COVID symptoms early is crucial in stopping the spread.

CDC: Symptoms of COVID-19

In its latest update (March 2022), the CDC confirmed that a wide variety of symptoms have been associated with COVID-19. Ranging from mild to severe, these symptoms often appear 2 to 14 days after exposure. Symptoms include the following:

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

How Can Some COVID-19 Patients Have Diarrhea As A Rare Symptom? 

Viruses affect the body by attacking healthy cells and multiplying. COVID-19, for instance, destroys the cells that line the airways. This makes it difficult to breathe, and can even result in pneumonia. Research reveals that the virus may also harm the liver and digestive tract.

That said, the same virus can cause different symptoms in different people. While a lack of appetite is the most common symptom, up to 34% of COVID-19 patients experience diarrhea that typically lasts an average of 5 days.

How Common is Diarrhea in COVID-19? 

Diarrhea is not a very common symptom of COVID-19, but the odds of experiencing it increase with age. Only 10% of children have COVID-related diarrhea, while 21% of adults (aged 16-35) and 30% of older adults (35+) experience diarrhea during their illness. Diarrhea is nearly always paired with other symptoms, though. In fact, only 2% of people with COVID-19 reported diarrhea as their only symptom.

How Long Does COVID-19 Related Diarrhea Last? 

In pediatric patients, COVID-related diarrhea typically subsides within 5 to 7 days, rarely lasting longer than 2 weeks. In adults, diarrhea often improves within 2 to 4 days, with more severe cases lasting a week or more.

Common COVID-19 Symptoms Also Associated With Diarrhea

COVID-related diarrhea nearly always accompanies other symptoms, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of smell
  • Sore throat

Patients with diarrhea are often at a greater risk of hospitalization, particularly those with abdominal pain and unexplained muscle pain. Again, your GI doctor can help determine whether your diarrhea or digestive symptoms are associated with COVID-19 or another condition. 

Common Causes of Diarrhea

Diarrhea is often caused by the following:

  • Bacterial infection
  • Virus
  • Food intolerance or allergy
  • Parasites ingested through food or water
  • Medication reaction
  • Intestinal disease
  • Bowel disorder
  • Recent antibiotic use
  • Metabolic conditions such

What Should I Do If I Suspect My Diarrhea is Related to COVID-19?

Digestive issues, such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, do not necessarily mean that you have COVID-19. Continue to monitor the infection rate in your community, especially if you have a health condition that makes you more vulnerable to infection.

If you suspect COVID exposure, our GI specialists recommend the following:

Stay home.
Most COVID patients do not require treatment and can manage symptoms with over-the-counter medications. Avoid leaving home unless medical care is needed. If possible, keep your distance from those who share your home.

Wash your hands often.
Wash your hands thoroughly, using soap and water, especially after using the bathroom, coughing or sneezing. If unavailable, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly. 
Keep these surfaces as clean as possible: toilet seat and flush handle, bathroom door knobs, phones, counters, and other high-touch surfaces.

Drink plenty of fluids.
It is important to stay hydrated, especially if diarrhea and vomiting are symptoms.  An oral rehydration solution can help replace electrolytes, along with watered-down fruit juices or sports drinks. 

Stick to a bland diet. 
Foods like bananas, white rice, applesauce, and toast, can help replenish nutrients and are easy to digest. You can also try oatmeal, boiled or baked potatoes, and baked chicken without the skin.

If your digestive troubles are due to a bug or food poisoning, you will likely feel better within 48 hours. If this isn’t the case, make an appointment with Charleston GI to get much-needed relief. Persistent GI issues could be caused by a more serious bacterial infection, so be sure to see your gastroenterologist if you are experiencing these symptoms:

  • Severe dehydration (dark urine, extreme weakness, dry mouth, dizziness)
  • Bloody or black diarrhea 
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Fever, coughing, or shortness of breath

Diarrhea Issues? Schedule Your Appointment at Charleston GI Today! No Referral Needed!

If you’re feeling less than your best, Charleston GI’s board certified gastroenterologists are here to help! Our experienced team treats a wide variety of GI conditions, including diarrhea. We can also help determine whether you’re suffering from a common case of diarrhea or exhibiting early signs of COVID-19.

There’s no referral needed, so contact us today to schedule your appointment!

Disclaimer: Information on this page is sourced from the CDC website. In the event of a discrepancy between the information on CharlestonGI.com and the CDC website, please follow CDC’s guidance.