This study might be the first to insist that skin rash is a predictive symptom of COVID-19 infection, but it’s not the first to state the symptom itself.
Fever, dry cough and shortness of breath — since the COVID-19 infection was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation in March 2020, we have come a long way in understanding the symptoms of this viral infection. As more information about COVID-19 has come to light, new symptoms have been listed as being associated with the disease and are now helping healthcare professionals diagnose and treat the disease even better.
A new study by researchers at King’s College London and Zoe Global Ltd indicates that skin rashes should also be added to the list of symptoms. What’s more, this study — which has not yet been peer-reviewed and is available on the server medRxiv in its pre-print version — actually states that skin rashes are a valuable predictor of COVID-19 infection in untested patients showing just one other classic symptom of the disease.
Early reports of skin rash as a symptom of COVID-19
This study might be the first to insist that skin rash is a predictive symptom of COVID-19 infection, but it’s not the first to state the symptom itself. Studies since March 2020 have suggested that COVID-19 patients have been showing up with skin rashes and that this symptom can often be confused with that of other diseases.
A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in March said that a COVID-19 positive patient presented with a skin rash that looked like the ones that appear in dengue. The dermatologists behind this research not only noted that such a skin presentation of COVID-19 can lead to misdiagnosis but also observed that there might be other, yet-unknown forms of COVID-19 skin rashes since the disease is so new.
In April, the Cleveland Clinic compiled reports of skin rashes in COVID-19 patients from all over the world. Dermatologists in Italy found that 20 percent of their COVID-19 patients had developed rashes of different varieties, including patchy red rashes, hives and chickenpox-like blisters in their trunk area. Doctors in Thailand observed dengue-like rashes on positive patients, while those in other countries also noted mottling.
Current research on skin rashes
The researchers at King’s College London used data collected through the UK COVID Symptom Study app, collecting evidence from 336,847 eligible users. They observed that 8.8 percent of the subjects whose swab tests revealed they were COVID-19 positive reported either a body rash or an acral rash (a type of rash associated with viral fevers). Among those who tested negative, 5.4 percent showed rashes too. This shows an odds ratio of 1.67 for being swab positive, meaning that odds of someone with a rash being COVID-19 positive is higher than them being negative.
The study further revealed that skin rashes were also predictive in 8.2 percent of the untested group of subjects who showed at least one classical symptom of COVID-19. The researchers corroborated their findings with an independent online survey and found that 17 percent of their swab positive cases also showed skin rash as an initial symptom. The study, therefore, concluded that “skin rashes cluster with other COVID-19 symptoms, are predictive of a positive swab test and occur in a significant number of cases, either alone or before other classical symptoms.”
These new findings, and other studies, underline the need to recognise skin rashes as an important symptom in identifying new and, possibly, predictive COVID-19 cases as early as possible, so that proper and timely treatment can be provided to all patients worldwide.
For more information, read our article on COVID-19: Symptoms, causes, transmission and prevention.
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