Doctors Say 'COVID Toes' May Potentially Be an Early Symptom for Young People With the Virus

Doctors Say ‘COVID Toes’ May Potentially Be an Early Symptom for Young People With the Virus

In a press release issued in April, Amy Paller, who is the chair of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said it is believed that children who contract COVID-19 may show signs of the virus through their toes.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have pointed out, while coronavirus is much more dangerous for the elderly and those who have underlying health issues, the virus does not discriminate when it comes to age or health.

Warning: Graphic Imagery of what is believed to be ‘COVID toes.’

Photo courtesy of Dr. Amy Paller, Northwestern University

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And when it comes to a young healthy person contracting COVID-19, they can also exhibit no symptoms at all but can still spread the virus to someone more vulnerable without ever knowing it. However, as Paller revealed in the press release there is one sign parents can look for that isn’t often talked about.

While the CDC has yet to confirm these findings on their website, “COVID toes” are something parents should look out for, Paller said. However, the direct link of “COVID toes” to COVID-19 has not been confirmed.

“We don’t know for sure if it’s related to COVID-19, but when it’s so common right now during a pandemic and is occurring in otherwise asymptomatic or mildly affected patients, it seems too much of a coincidence not to be a manifestation of the virus for patients in their teens and 20s. I think it’s much more rampant than we even realize. The good news is it resolves spontaneously.” Paller continued adding:

Photo courtesy of Dr. Amy Paller, Northwestern University

“A minority of these patients with this have been tested for COVID-19 and many have been negative, but we still suspect a relationship. Many have had some mild viral symptoms in the week before and it might be a sign during the ‘convalescent’ healing period when no longer contagious. We won’t understand the association until we can test this more broadly.”

And when explaining what “COVID toes” look like, Paller admitted that it closely resembles a condition called pernio. According to the Mayo Clinic, pernio is “the painful inflammation of small blood vessels in your skin that occur in response to repeated exposure to cold but not freezing air. Also known as chilblains, it can cause itching, red patches, swelling, and blistering on your hands and feet.”

“This looks like a condition we see called pernio but we’re still calling it ‘COVID toes’ because it’s only pernio-like. Pernio is a purple discoloration and causes the toes to be very tender,” Paller continued. “The condition we’re seeing can look just like pernio, but often varies from being bright red to purple, and not uncommonly affects broader areas of the toes. Sometimes the bottom of the feet has circles of discoloration – and the fingers occasionally show similar discoloration. Sometimes the feet are itchy, sometimes painful, sometimes without any symptoms.” 

Photo courtesy of Dr. Amy Paller, Northwestern University

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And according to USA Today, Paller isn’t the only doctor who has come across “COVID toes.” Dr. Ebbing Lautenbach, the chief of infectious disease at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, said COVID toes “is a manifestation that occurs early on in the disease, meaning you have this first, then you progress. Sometimes this might be your first clue that they have COVID when they don’t have any other symptoms.”

As USA Today reports, many cases of COVID toes can last up to 10 days then go away on its own. However, some patients went from COVID toes to respiratory issues. Dr. Lautenbach says the current theories as to why some younger patients may be developing COVID toes “is an inflammatory response more localized to a patient’s foot and toes. Or it could be a clotting of blood vessels.”

Honestly, Dr. Lautenbach explained that “the short answer is nobody knows.” He went on to say that if you or someone in your home starts to experience COVID toes, the best thing for you to do is “quarantine at home and monitor closely for developing symptoms.”

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