Is Vomiting a Symptom of COVID-19?

Gastrointestinal issues could signal a SARS-CoV-2 infection—but they're not the most common symptoms.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are pretty much what you'd expect from a respiratory disease: fever, persistent cough, fatigue, and muscle pain. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many people with COVID-19 experience gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea—sometimes even before developing the respiratory tract symptoms.

"COVID-19 can present in many ways. I have seen patients who only have symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea, but they usually also have a fever," Jorge Vournas, MD, medical director of the Emergency Department at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance, California, told Health.

What Does Research Say About COVID-19 and Vomiting?

As of July 2022, researchers have found gastrointestinal issues, including nausea and vomiting, to be symptoms of COVID-19, in addition to other respiratory symptoms or sometimes without the presence of respiratory symptoms. But GI issues are not the most common signs of COVID-19.

In a January 2022 study from Egypt published in Annals of Medicine and Surgery, about 27% of people with COVID-19 had GI symptoms. Vomiting was the most commonly reported GI symptom—about 11% of all people in the study experienced it.

A June 2022 study from the US published in the journal Medicine (Baltimore) found that almost half of people with COVID-19 admitted to the hospital had at least one GI symptom. About 16% of all study participants experienced vomiting.

COVID-19 may also lead to GI problems after recovery, per a September 2021 study in the US published in the journal Neurogastroenterology & Motility. The study suggested that between 16–40% of people who've had COVID-19 experienced GI symptoms such as vomiting for one month or longer.

A January 2022 review published in the journal Medicine and Pharmacy Reports also found that GI issues including vomiting were signs of long COVID-19.

As to why COVID-19 may cause GI issues, it's possibly because one protein that the coronavirus affects in the body—angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, or ACE2—exists not only in the lungs but also in the gastrointestinal tract, per a September 2021 paper published in the journal Digestive Diseases.

coronavirus-vomiting , Young woman vomiting into the toilet bowl in the early stages of pregnancy or after a night of partying and drinking.
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What To Do if You Experience Vomiting or Other GI Symptoms

Research has suggested that vomiting and other GI issues shouldn't be ignored during the COVID-19 pandemic and that the symptoms may warrant a test to see if you have the virus. "It would be wise to consider that you may have COVID-19 if you develop vomiting and diarrhea and have no other obvious cause," Dr. Vournas said. "In which case, getting tested would be the next best step."

GI symptoms during COVID-19 last, on average, about three to seven days, per a February 2022 review published in the World Journal of Clinical Cases. Hydration was suggested as the "main treatment" for COVID-19 diarrhea and vomiting.

If you experience vomiting and have been tested for COVID-19, the best thing you can do is self-isolate while you wait for your results and treat yourself at home. The CDC advised staying hydrated, getting as much rest as possible, avoiding foods that upset your stomach, and keeping an eye on your symptoms.

But "if you have vomiting, you should seek medical attention if your symptoms are lasting for more than 24 hours, or if you are experiencing high fevers, abdominal pain or have blood or a dark 'coffee-ground' appearance of your vomiting," Dr. Vournas said, as that can be a sign of a more serious issue that needs immediate care.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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