Could Nausea & Vomiting Be Symptoms of COVID-19?
It’s true that nausea and vomiting are potential symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. But, feeling nauseous or queasy doesn’t necessarily mean that you have COVID-19—in fact, there are several medical conditions, behaviors and other factors that can lead to nausea and vomiting. Let’s take a closer look at these common symptoms and when they may be related to COVID-19.
COVID-19 & Gastrointestinal Symptoms
There is still much to discover about COVID-19 and its wide-ranging effects on the human body. Some people who develop COVID-19 never feel sick, while others are hospitalized with serious complications. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) observes that many patients develop gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, nausea and diarrhea before experiencing fever and respiratory symptoms like cough and shortness of breath.
So, why does COVID-19 cause gastrointestinal distress? Research indicates that SARS-CoV-2 can enter the digestive system through cell surface receptors meant for an enzyme called ACE2, and these receptors are 100 times more plentiful in the gastrointestinal tract than the respiratory tract. It’s possible for people with COVID-19 to experience only gastrointestinal symptoms, while others may develop respiratory symptoms alongside diarrhea, nausea or vomiting.
Other Causes of Nausea & Vomiting
As previously mentioned, nausea and vomiting are related to a wide variety of factors besides COVID-19. A few of the most common medical conditions that may trigger these symptoms include:
- Gastroenteritis (stomach bug)
- Motion sickness
- Bowel obstruction
- Food poisoning
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Gallbladder disease
- Influenza (the flu)
Nausea and vomiting are sometimes related to other factors, such as:
- Taking certain medications
- Emotional stress
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Offensive smells or odors
The Bottom Line
Because research suggests that nausea and vomiting (as well as diarrhea) may be among the first signs of COVID-19, it’s important to take your symptoms seriously. It’s a good idea to get tested if there is any question as to what is causing your symptoms, or you may prefer to first speak with a medical professional over the phone or during a telemedicine appointment. Be sure to stay at home and keep your distance from others until you learn what’s at the root of your symptoms.
World-Class Medical Care Made Convenient
Tufts Medical Center Community Care is pleased to offer a full spectrum of easily accessible healthcare services in communities throughout north suburban Boston. Our team of more than 120 practitioners includes infectious disease doctors, primary care physicians, gastroenterologists and dozens of other specialists who collaborate to deliver world-class medical care, close to home.
Contact Tufts Medical Center Community Care today to schedule an in-person or telemedicine appointment with a physician on our team. We’ll be happy to provide you with more information on our approach to infectious disease care and how we’re keeping patients and staff safe during the COVID-19 crisis.