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Signs and symptoms of covid toes

A new symptom of the infamous respiratory virus has been turning heads among doctors lately. Here’s how to recognise ‘Covid toes’, what to expect from the ailment, and why it’s important not to panic if your feet are afflicted.

Much of our everyday life has returned to the pre-pandemic hustle and bustle. Restaurants are thriving, offices are full, and only a handful of people on public transport remain loyal to the mask mandates. But to assume the resurgence of so much freedom and social interaction is an indication COVID-19 is totally behind us is a grave mistake to make. 

Yes, thanks to the tireless efforts of doctors, nurses and scientists across the globe, the inconceivable death tolls and case numbers experienced in the first few waves of the pandemic are unlikely to make a dramatic resurgence. 

Even so, individuals across Australia are still testing positive for Covid, displaying a whole spectrum of symptoms that have left medical professionals baffled. The most recent? Covid toes. Here’s everything you need to know about this odd symptom according to an expert.

What are ‘Covid toes’?

Believed to be an immune response to your body’s COVID-19 infection, Covid toes can be characterised by swelling and discolouration of the foot phalanges. In addition, the affected areas may also be prone to blisters, rough skin, itchiness, pain, and tender raised bumps.

„This immune response causes inflammation throughout your body that can present in a variety of different ways on the skin,“ dermatologist Dr Ife Rodney explains. 

While the symptom is associated with COVID-19 infection, experts say other causes may be Neoangiogenesis (the creation of a new blood vessel), Vasculitis (damage to a blood vessel from inflammation or swelling) or Vessel thrombosis (blood clotting within blood vessels).

The most surprising aspect of this strange symptom is its prevalence amongst young, healthy individuals, with cases most commonly appearing in children, teenagers and adults. All in all, experts say anyone afflicted with Covid Toes can expect this strange symptom to subside after two weeks, with only a few severe cases lasting 

While many similarly presenting conditions are weather dependent, such as chilblain legions being triggered by cold temperatures, Covid toes don’t appear to be ruled by seasonal weather. „We are unsure why the Covid rash takes on this specific presentation, as it does not seem to be more common in the wintertime or related to cold exposure,“ says Dr Rodney.

Furthermore, the toe symptom is not only found in people suffering from severe cases of the respiratory virus, but has been reportedly linked to milder infections, and even some individuals without any other COVID-19 symptoms. 

While the symptom doesn’t appear to abide by same the infectious characteristics of others, experts believe the reason some people are experiencing Covid toes has much to do with their immune system’s individual reaction.   

While it’s yet to be determined if Covid toes alone are contagious, there’s no doubt the disease they represent is. If you’re experiencing any Covid symptoms, from your head to your toes, always consult a health professional for advice, while ensuring you follow COVID-19 protocol. 

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Fashion trends that might jeopardise your health

While many have prattled off the phrase ‚fashion is pain‘ to justify wearing an uncomfortable pair of high heels, other items in your wardrobe could also be the culprit of health issues.

With very clever and memorable marketing strategies and of course iconic products too (nipple bras anyone?) there is no doubt as to why Kim Kardashian’s brand Skims is now worth $4 billion and revolutionised shapewear as we know it.

Shapewear aside, activewear and jeans are also incredibly popular fashion items and staples of many of our wardrobes. What you might not know, however, is that they could potentially cause damage to your health, researchers have found. 

According to Kin Fertility GP, Dr Kirsty Wallace-Hor, the issues that can be caused by these fashion choices range from nerve irritation to skin conditions to gastrointestinal issues but in most cases, they are reversible and preventable. 

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Nerve damage

“When you wear tight clothing, you can compress important structures like nerves,” Dr Wallace-Hor says.

 “I once saw a young woman concerned about numbness and tingling in her outer thigh. It soon emerged that it was worse after nights out when she usually wore tight jeans. In this case, her jeans were so tight that the nerve supplying that area of her thigh (the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve) was being pressed enough to cause nerve pain,” she explains.

The good news is, that this nerve pain will usually subside (as it did with this patient), once tight garments are switched for looser fitting ones.

Gastrointestinal trouble

“Similarly reflux – which is when the acidic contents of the stomach are pushed back into the oesophagus – can be aggravated or caused by tight clothing,” Dr Wallace-Hor says.

This can also impact existing issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) some medical practitioners have also reported.

While in most cases simply switching from tight to looser-fitting clothing can alleviate these issues, some medical professionals warn that repeated acid reflux can lead to more serious conditions like esophagitis which can make swallowing painful and difficult, so prevention is the best medicine.

Skin irritation 

“The most common issues I see with activewear and tight clothing are skin-related,” says Dr Wallace-Hor.

Types of skin irritation include miliaria (sweat rash), folliculitis (inflammation and sometimes infection of the hair follicles) and yeast or fungal skin infections. 

“A lot of clothing these days isn’t made with breathable fabrics and people may not always shower or change after excess sweating, exercise, or swimming. The warm and damp conditions that result can cause a build-up of bacteria, yeast, and fungi on our skin. This can then go on to cause infections and irritating rashes, particularly in the skin folds like the groin or under the breasts,” she says.

To prevent adverse skin reactions, Dr Wallace-Hor recommends avoiding wearing tight clothing for long periods. In addition, in the case of activewear and swimwear, showering directly after sweating, exercising, or swimming is a must.

She also suggests using a non-fragranced body wash or cleanser and washing your clothing thoroughly to avoid the build-up of sweat and dirt.

Finally, avoid using laundry sanitisers and detergents marketed as “anti-bacterial” (which have gained popularity since the onset of Covid), as these often contain a chemical called benzalkonium chloride which can irritate the skin further, she says.

Other culprits

Along with activewear, shapewear and jeans, ill-fitting bras, belts and pantyhose can also contribute to many of these issues, so it is important to be correctly fitted for bras and limit the use of other items.

Signs to look out for

While it probably seems obvious when an item of clothing is too tight (the discomfort and inability to move properly are usually accurate indicators), other tell-tale signs to look out for include red marks on your skin, pressure marks, skin irritation, numbness or tingling and difficulty breathing.

But before you throw out half your wardrobe (don’t worry, I was nearly there), the good news from Dr Wallace-Hor is that as long as it’s not uncomfortable, it is generally safe to wear.

If you have any of the concerns mentioned above, particularly if they persist, it’s important to check in with your GP. 

“Not only can they help with treatments, but there could be other factors or causes that need to be excluded or addressed,” Dr Wallace-Hor says.

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