From 'COVID toes' to 'Paxlovid arm': 4 phenomena that emerged amid the pandemic

Loss of taste and smell were once the hallmark symptoms of COVID-19. Nearly three years later, physicians have seen a number of other strange symptoms reported by patients during or shortly after a bout with COVID-19, as well as conditions linked to treatments and vaccines. 

From "COVID-19 toes" to "Paxlovid mouth," here are four COVID-19-related phenomena Becker's has reported on, starting with the most recent: 

COVID tongue 

The U.K.'s ZOE Health study, which collects COVID-19 data through an app people use to track symptoms, found an increasing number of people reporting changes to their mouth or tongue, according to a Dec. 7 blog post on the national study's website. Most people experiencing the changes reported their tongue was white and patchy. It's not yet clear what causes what is now known as "COVID-19 tongue" or other changes to the mouth, such as swelling, ulcers or muscle pain when chewing. 

Paxlovid mouth 

A bitter or metallic taste in the mouth is the most common side effect of Paxlovid, Pfizer's 

COVID-19 antiviral drug treatment. Some dubbed the side effect "Paxlovid mouth," a taste one person described as "the smell that hot garbage has, but in your mouth," according to The Wall Street Journal. Unless someone experiences an allergic reaction or vomiting, health experts advise people to stomach the bad taste and not to end the regimen early. 

COVID toes 

Throughout the pandemic, physicians have seen some patients with COVID-19 symptoms develop painful "chilblain-like" lesions on their toes and sometimes fingers that burn or itch. What was puzzling about this is that many patients who developed the lesions and had COVID-19 symptoms actually tested negative for the virus, The New York Times reported in the fall of 2021. Some research has suggested the lesions may be linked to immune system overreaction, with some patients who had a mild or asymptomatic infection developing the chilblains several weeks later.

COVID arm 

COVID arm refers to the redness or swelling people experience at the site of injection after receiving their vaccines. The rashes can develop a few days to more than a week after the shot, according to the CDC. Health experts recommend taking an antihistamine to soon any itching at the injection site, or an acetaminophen for pain. 


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