‘COVID Toes’ May Be A New Symptom Of Coronavirus In Kids, Doctors Say

Research is still emerging on the skin condition’s link to the disease.

The following story contains images of feet in poor condition.

If your kid is complaining about itchy or burning feet, you might want to check their toes: Growing research into COVID-19 symptoms indicates “COVID toes,” which may resemble frostbite, might be an early sign of infection in children who seem otherwise healthy.

Painful red, purple or blue lesions on hands or toes have been noted among COVID-19 cases in younger populations, particularly children who were otherwise asymptomatic carriers in Italy and North America, infectious disease experts like Dr. Ebbing Lautenbach say. A small-scale study in Italy showed that up to 20 per cent of respondents had a skin condition and more research, including a crowdsourced database of skin conditions in COVID-19 patients, is in the works.

A teenage patient's foot with the condition many are calling "COVID toes," as taken in a photo by Dr. Amy Paller.
A teenage patient's foot with the condition many are calling "COVID toes," as taken in a photo by Dr. Amy Paller.

Lautenbach, who is chief of infectious disease at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, told USA Today that the bumpy skin condition may have a “burning sensation.” The bumps have been known to appear on toes, CTV reports, but are also documented on the sides of kids’ feet.

It’s currently unknown why the novel coronavirus causes this symptom in children, but early theories suggest blood clotting or inflamed blood vessels may be a reason, Lautenbach told USA Today. A pediatric dermatologist says she’s seen 30 cases of the vividly coloured lesions on children and teenagers who have tested positive.

“We don’t know for sure if it’s related to COVID-19, but when it’s so common right now during a pandemic and is occurring in otherwise asymptomatic or mildly affected patients, it seems too much of a coincidence,” Dr. Amy Paller said in a media statement from by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

So far, the known cases of COVID toes have two outcomes: The majority seen by Paller have cleared up on their own, NBC reports. Around a week to 10 days seemed to be the most common duration for rashes, with scabbing and light discolouration observed a month after COVID toes presents itself.

However, some cases have progressed into the well-documented respiratory symptoms, like dry coughing fits.

My kid has red toes —should they be tested?

Because COVID toes are considered an early sign and the link is currently tenuous, children may test negative for COVID-19, Paller told Fatherly.

She told the outlet that antibody testing would be ideal. Unlike viral testing which determines if someone currently has COVID-19, antibody testing can show if someone has previously contacted it. This can help alleviate stress over contacting the disease, as well as contribute to research efforts.

Dr. Esther Freeman, a dermatologist and epidemiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Business Insider that those with COVID toes should talk to their health-care provider. If you’ve ruled out other reasons for the skin condition, such as a kid’s predisposition to lesions in the past, it might be worth getting them tested and keeping them physically away from others.

COVID-19: Check out the latest updates
COVID-19: Check out the latest updates

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