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COVID Toe: Is Purple Toes a Symptom of COVID-19?


Multiple symptoms are traditionally linked to COVID-19, such as fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, or loss of taste and smell. However, COVID symptoms are much broader than that.

Some odd COVID symptoms include:

In this post, we’ll discuss a symptom called COVID toe. Let’s get started

What is COVID Toe?

“COLVID toes” are red or purple bumps on the tips of the toes that can last for weeks. In most cases, you’ll see this skin condition on your toes, but it can also appear on your fingers. Although it’s not yet fully clear whether this symptom is linked to COVID-19, some research studies have shown that it affects 14.3% to 72% of infected people.

It can affect any age group, but children, teens, and young adults are more prone to it. In fact, some individuals may not develop other symptoms of COVID-19 or only mild ones.

Dr. Veronique Bataille, a dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation, mentioned that COVID toes were more common in the early phase of the pandemic but have become less frequent during the Delta variant wave. This could be due to more people being vaccinated or having prior protection from past infections.

Symptoms of COVID Toes

COVID toes often start with a bright red coloration on your fingers or toes, which can gradually turn purplish. This skin symptom may affect one toe or all of them.

COVID toes can be painless for some people, while others may experience:

  • Swelling
  • Blisters around colored areas
  • Areas of rough skin
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Pus under the skin

Perniosis or Chilblains

How Long Do COVID Toes Last?

Since there’s limited research on this symptom, it’s unclear how long most people suffer from this condition. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), some patients may experience 10 to 14 days of COVID toes, whereas others can have it for months.

What Causes COVID Toes?

It is not yet clear what causes COVID toes. Some experts suggest that rashes are common during viral infections, particularly respiratory ones, and COVID toes might be an extension of this response to COVID-19. Additionally, certain antibiotics can also lead to skin issues.

Moreover, patients with COVID toes typically don’t show signs of Raynaud’s phenomenon or ischemia, which involve numbness and coldness due to temperature or circulation issues.

One small study suggests that this condition may be caused by a strong immune response to the COVID-19 virus. As a result of this immune reaction, you may experience inflammation throughout your body.

Researchers have also identified other possible causes, including vasculitis, vessel thrombosis, and neoangiogenesis.

Treatment for COVID Toes

COVID toes usually disappear on their own. However, if you want to reduce pain or itching, the AAD suggests applying hydrocortisone cream to the affected area. In case this doesn’t bring relief or the symptoms worsen, you should contact a dermatologist.

Are COVID Toes Contagious?

The research on this topic is in its early stages, so experts can’t provide a definitive answer. It’s important to note that COVID itself is contagious. However, having COVID along with COVID toes doesn’t guarantee that if the virus is transmitted to someone else, they will also develop COVID toes.

What You Should Do If You Suspect You Have COVID Toes

If you suspect you have COVID toes but don’t experience any other symptoms, you shouldn’t automatically assume you have COVID. After all, the link between this skin issue and COVID-19 is still being studied.

Therefore, you should consult your physician and get tested to confirm, especially if you:

  • Haven’t received the COVID-19 vaccine
  • Live with individuals who are at risk of severe infection
  • Are a young adult, teen, or child

If you experience other COVID symptoms as well as COVID toes, you should practice social distancing and get promptly tested.

Need a COVID test? No matter where you are or what type of test you need, find testing locations near you with our international directory.

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