Nasal congestion or a runny nose is now on the CDC list of possible Covid-19 symptoms. (Photo: … [+]
New is a relative term. A planet that was formed a couple years ago could still be new. Sushi that was formed a couple years ago, not so much.
So there are three “new” symptoms on the Symptoms of Coronavirus on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. They’re “new” if you compare it to the list from late April, which I had covered for Forbes. However, they may have actually been on the CDC list for a while, possibly as early as May 13, based on the CDC’s “What’s New” website.
Regardless, over the past day or two, various media outlets, such as The Hill and CBS13, have reported on these the following “added” or “new” symptoms: congestion or runny nose, nausea, and diarrhea.
These additions have brought the total on the list to either 11 or 12 depending whether you list fever and chills separately. Here is the list:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Don’t read too much into the order of the list. These aren’t rankings in any way.
Remember when the list had only three symptoms: fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing? Yeah, those were simpler times. Since then, the picture of the infection and resulting disease has gotten a whole lot more complicated.
This list shows how difficult it can be to identify someone with the infection without proper testing. None of these symptoms would be pathognomonic for Covid-19. Path-of-what-a-harmonic? Path-of-the-New-York-Philharmonic? No, pathognomonic, which is a medical term. It means “having to do with a sign or symptom that is specific to a certain disease,” according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Rather all of the 12 symptoms on the CDC list could occur with many different diseases and conditions.
This is certainly true for the three “new” symptoms. For example, many different things could cause congestion or a runny nose (or runny noses if you happen to have more than one nose). They range from allergies to certain medications to tobacco smoke to the common cold or other types of infections to eating a spicy dish to pregnancy to a foreign body up the nose. Some of these may be more obvious than others. If you are 37 weeks pregnant, there are usually other accompanying signs besides just a runny nose. Similarly, if you have a foreign body up your nose such as a French Fry, typically other clues are present such as you wondering what happened to the French Fry that was on your plate. However, in other situations, it can be difficult to tell what exactly is causing the congestion or runny nose. Moreover, you could always have more than one thing going on at the same time such as allergies and a Covid-19 coronavirus infection.
Therefore, don’t use the CDC’s list alone to determine whether you have a Covid-19 coronavirus infection. It’s not a replacement for testing. It is not a replacement for a doctor reviewing your history and examining you.
At the same time, don’t use this list to rule out a Covid-19 coronavirus infection. Just because you don’t have any of the symptoms listed doesn’t mean that you aren’t infected. You could have a symptom that’s not yet on this list. As doctors learn more and more about this disease, there is a good chance that this list will get longer. Moreover, you could be infected and contagious and have no symptoms. Or you could have relatively mild symptoms without even noticing it.
So currently, you can never really say for sure that you aren’t infected and contagious. You can’t say, “oh, I don’t need to wear a face covering to protect others from me because there’s no way that I can be contagious.” Well, you can say it, but you’d be incorrect.