COVID-19 has affected people of all ages, but especially older adults. Anyone over the age of 65 counted as a high-risk patient at the beginning of the pandemic because of their weakened immune systems or underlying conditions. As more people in retirement communities and long-term care facilities became sick, doctors began to notice a few differences in early symptoms.
Read on to learn five atypical COVID symptoms to watch for in older adults. An informed perspective and vigilant awareness will help you protect your loved ones.
1. Occasional or Constant Sneezing
When COVID began to spread in the spring, it was difficult for people to tell if they were getting sick or had seasonal allergies. Occasional sneezing flew under the radar as everyone continued to adjust to their new routines, but sneezing remains one of the more atypical COVID symptoms.
Older adults may sneeze more often than usual up to 14 days after exposure. If sneezing accompanies any of these other symptoms, it may be time to get your loved one tested.
Dry coughing is one of the most significant traditional symptoms, but it can be more than just the occasional tickle in your throat. The coughs can quickly advance into deep, wracking exhales. Every time you cough, your abdominal muscles contract, which induces mild to moderate urinary incontinence in some older patients. This symptom may be challenging to catch if your loved one already experiences incontinency due to medication or age.
COVID-19 is a powerful virus, so it quickly drains a person of their energy as their immune system tries to fight it off. Age breaks down the immune system by weakening the remaining T-cells that fight infections. Older patients will feel lethargic faster than young patients as their immune system drains more energy to defeat the virus.
4. Lack of Appetite
A Stanford study found that some patients experience a loss of appetite as they battle COVID. It appears in a minority of patients, but it’s harder to catch in older adults who already don’t eat as much as they used to. Report any changes in their diet to their doctor.
5. Confusion or Dizziness
COVID can cause inflammation, specifically in the brain. This kind of neurological inflammation leads to confusion or dizziness, but not in every patient. Elderly patients may already deal with these symptoms because of common diagnoses like hearing loss.
6. Impaired Hearing
Hearing loss affects nearly 34 million Americans or 11% of the population, making it difficult for them to keep up with what’s happening around them. One study has shown that COVID-19 could have deleterious effects on cochlear hair cell functions, although additional testing may be necessary.
What to Look For
Being aware of these atypical COVID symptoms will help you protect your older loved ones, but you should also watch for more common symptoms, such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Body aches
- Loss of taste or smell
- Runny nose or congestion
- Upset stomach or diarrhea
If you believe you or your loved ones have experienced these symptoms after being in a high-risk environment or around a recently-diagnosed individual, get tested right away and self-quarantine until you receive your results.