Can Diarrhea Be an Initial Symptom of COVID-19?

June 1, 2021

While most of us know some of the common symptoms of COVID-19—such as fever, shortness of breath, and a dry cough—it’s quite common to experience gastrointestinal distress, such as diarrhea. That’s because diarrhea is the body’s way of quickly disposing of viruses, bacteria, and toxins from the digestive tract. In fact, a study reported in The American Journal of Gastroenterology found that diarrhea was the first and only COVID-19 symptom experienced by some patients.

How to Tell the Difference Between COVID-19 & Other Conditions

If you’re experiencing diarrhea after being in contact with someone with a known case of COVID-19, then you may want to get tested to be sure your gastrointestinal symptoms aren’t caused by this virus. You should also get tested if your diarrhea symptoms are accompanied by fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, headache, sore throat, nausea, or a new loss of taste or smell.

However, your diarrhea symptoms may be a result of another condition entirely—and this is the more likely scenario. For instance, diarrhea is frequently caused by:

  • The flu
  • A food sensitivity or intolerance
  • Certain antibiotics
  • A digestive disorder, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or irritable bowel syndrome

Treating Diarrhea at Home

Most cases of diarrhea can be treated with simple, at-home remedies, such as:

  • Staying hydrated – Dehydration is a serious concern for those with diarrhea. Children should be given Pedialyte or another pediatric hydration solution, while sports drinks like Gatorade can be effective for teenagers and adults.
  • Taking medication – An over-the-counter medication, such as Pepto-Bismol or Imodium, can help relieve symptoms.
  • Eating a “BRAT” diet – Bananas, white rice, applesauce, and toast, aka the “BRAT” diet, help firm up stool and alleviate diarrhea symptoms. Stay away from fried, greasy, and high-fiber foods.

If your symptoms do not improve within a few days or are accompanied by a fever of more than 102°F, bloody or black stools, or severe abdominal pain, rectal pain, or dehydration, seek medical attention at an urgent care center such as PhysicianOne Urgent Care. Our facilities are open seven days per week with extended hours, and we can treat you promptly.

Diarrhea Treatment at PhysicianOne Urgent Care

When you visit PhysicianOne Urgent Care for diarrhea treatment, you will be seen by one of our experienced practitioners who will review your medical history, learn about any medications you’re taking, and conduct a physical examination. From there, additional testing may be recommended, such as a complete blood count. We can conduct many clinical lab tests in our urgent care centers for prompt results. We’ll also likely administer a COVID-19 test to rule out this condition.

If your diarrhea symptoms are caused by a bacterial infection, we can prescribe antibiotics. We may also administer IV fluids for dehydration. For other conditions, such as a viral infection, we may recommend over-the-counter options to help relieve the symptoms.

Stop by Today

If you are experiencing diarrhea symptoms, come to PhysicianOne Urgent Care today. We offer PCR and rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 as well as clinical lab testing for other conditions. We have urgent care centers located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. Find your nearest one here and walk right in to receive prompt care!

This was the fastest, easiest, and best doctor's visit. The provider was extremely kind and helpful. I explained my symptoms, the provider asked a few followup questions, and then she issued a script. I will absolutely be using this service again and would recommend to anyone.
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