The first signs of COVID-19 infection start in the nose for many people — but how about the toes? More than a year into the pandemic, doctors and researchers continue to discover new information about the COVID-19 virus, including some new and less common signs and symptoms that can help patients and medical professionals identify an infection as early as possible. A phenomenon known as COVID toes and hands is one of those symptoms. It’s one of the first non-respiratory conditions associated with COVID-19. So what are COVID toes and hands? Are swollen, purple toes and COVID linked? Here’s the latest medical insight from experts in the field.
What is COVID Toe?
Last year, dermatologists across the country began to notice an increase in patients presenting with chilblains, or painful red or purple lesions that appear on toes and fingers. Typically caused by inflammation in the small blood vessels that feed your fingers and toes, chilblains tend to erupt in the winter months due to the cold, damp weather — not in the middle of spring, when COVID infections began to spread dramatically across the globe.
At a time when symptom data was still murky and COVID testing was limited, this strange surge in cases gave rise to the idea that chilblains could be a sign of infection — hence the name “COVID toes.” While these lesions seemed most common in children, teens and young adults, further research shows that COVID toes can affect patients of any age.
What Are The Symptoms of COVID Toe?
Most commonly, patients will notice an unusual rash or raised bumps on fingers and toes, often with associated itching and discoloration. At first, the rash may appear pinkish or red but will progress to a deeper purple color and increase in pain and discomfort. The lesions may also spread across the foot or hand to the heel.
If I have purple COVID toes, do I have COVID-19?
COVID-19 is still relatively new with seemingly broad and far-ranging effects on the human body, and researchers are still working to understand the full impacts of the virus. COVID toes can develop in the early stages of COVID-19 infection but have also been observed in patients who are days or weeks removed from the acute phase of infection.
As a general rule, people with purple toes or fingers should undergo COVID-19 testing to determine their infection status with greater accuracy. However, anecdotal evidence from medical professionals and dermatologists suggests that some patients with COVID toes may have only mild COVID symptoms or be otherwise asymptomatic, which makes this condition a pretense for further testing.
Are COVID Toes Dangerous?
Thankfully, most cases of COVID toe tend to run their course in roughly 10-14 days, with little need for further treatment. Doctors have reported that many patients with COVID toes do not become severely ill from the COVID virus. New research suggests that COVID toes may actually be a sign of a robust immune response, meaning that patients are in the throes of fending off and recovering from infection.
How Do You Treat COVID Toes?
Most COVID toe patients do not require treatment beyond staying off their feet and avoiding tight or uncomfortable shoes and socks. Depending on the level of pain and discomfort, patients can apply hydrocortisone cream to lesions to reduce itching and inflammation, but a dermatologist or skin specialist must treat severe pain or worsening conditions.
What Should I Do If My Toes Turn Purple?
While the link between these lesions and the COVID-19 virus are still not fully understood, the first step for anyone with purple toes should be self-isolation followed by testing. From there, your medical professional will help determine the best course for treatment.
If you or your employees are affected by COVID toes or any other potential signs and symptoms of COVID-19, Brio’s easy-to-use, end-to-end diagnostic testing solution can help you determine if infection is present and help you make the most informed decisions for the health and safety of your entire team. Rather than waiting days or weeks for results, BRIO ensures fast delivery. Test with BRIO today and let our simple, reliable platform keep your organization healthy and symptom-free from noses to toes.
American Academy of Dermatology - https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/coronavirus/covid-toes
Weill Cornell Hospital - https://weillcornell.org/news/covid-toe-and-other-covid-19-skin-conditions