ATLANTA — The list of COVID-19 symptoms grew over the last two years of the pandemic. Health officials altered the symptoms on that list depending on the prevalent variant of the time.
The top symptoms remain relatively the same -- runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing, and a sore throat. Most of those won’t send someone to the hospital, but one unusual symptom might.
Most likely you’ve heard of COVID toes, but there's something else that may point to something more serious.
Is blue, pale, or grey fingernails or lips a sign of a serious COVID infection?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health
WHAT WE FOUND:
The most serious of symptoms that experts urge people to seek immediate medical attention include trouble breathing, persistent pain the chest, confusion, and extreme fatigue (inability to stay awake).
But one of the symptoms listed on the CDC’s website under “when to seek emergency medical attention” includes discoloration of the nails. Most specifically, “pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone.” For people with darker skin tones, it’s easier to see the discoloration around lips, eyes, or mouth.
It’s important to note, this symptom differs from a more popularly discussed symptom, dubbed as “COVID nails.”
COVID nails or Beau’s lines is a symptom some people exhibited after a COVID infection. The nails show dents or ridges that run horizontally. This symptom isn’t a sign of something serious, according to the Cleveland Clinic. While it can be a sign that someone is sick, Beau’s lines can also occur in someone experiencing extreme stress or even slamming their finger in a door.
As far as the pale, gray, or blue colored skin or nails, this is most likely attributed to cyanosis, which is usually due to a lack of oxygen. When normal bright red blood cells don’t have enough oxygen, the result is a dark bluish-red color.
According to Mount Sinai, cyanosis can be a sign of a serious medical problem and may occur with other serious symptoms such as trouble breathing or pain in the chest, which other serious symptoms of COVID. It can also be an indication someone with the virus is having cardiovascular issues. Cyanosis is also a serious sign of other medical problems, like lung or heart diseases or blood clots.
The discoloration may also appear without other symptoms, according to infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh A. Adalja. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health Scholar told Prevention in 2020 it’s rare to have the discoloration without presenting other symptoms, but it can happen.
So, yes. Blue, pale, or gray skin, nails or lips can be a sign of serious COVID infection. It can also be a sign of another serious medical issue. Either way, it’s best to see a doctor as soon as possible.