Some patients with COVID-19 experience gastrointestinal symptoms, particularly diarrhea, as the first sign of illness, according to a new study.

Among this subset of patients — who have mild disease overall — respiratory symptoms show up only later in the illness, and some never develop respiratory symptoms at all, the authors said. The findings are important because those without classic symptoms of COVID-19 — such as cough, shortness of breath and fever — may go undiagnosed and could potentially spread the illness to others, the researchers said. Still, they note that digestive problems are common overall and don›t necessarily mean that a person has COVID-19.

However, sudden digestive symptoms in people with a possible COVID-19 contact should at least do prompt consideration of the illness. Other common flu-like symptoms associated with COVID-19 include: chills, shortness of breath, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell and muscle pain.

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