COVID or gastrointestinal illness? Why it’s hard to know right now – CBC

Gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain are common but can be a cause for concern

Apr 27, 2022

If you’ve felt green around the gills recently, or heard more tales than usual about stomach upsets, you might have wondered if Omicron or its subvariant, BA.2, are causing an increase in gastrointestinal issues.

Some clinicians have also reported seeing more COVID-19 patients suffering from GI symptoms in recent weeks.

But medical experts say there are a few possible explanations — and it’s not necessarily due to the COVID-19 strains currently circulating in Canada. Diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain have been recognized as common symptoms of COVID-19 since early in the pandemic, while nausea, reflux, heartburn, loss of appetite and weight loss are also recognized as potential symptoms.

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases specialist in Mississauga, Ont., said he’s recently seen a higher proportion of COVID-19 patients whose primary symptoms are gastrointestinal.

“I’ve seen people that just present with vomiting,” he said.

But, he adds, it’s not that Omicron is necessarily causing more GI issues, but rather, that it’s now easier to detect COVID-19 in those patients than it was earlier in the pandemic.

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