Doctors who have been treating patients with COVID-19 are sharing a somewhat new discovery — a skin condition that might be a symptom of the novel coronavirus, particularly in children.
Dubbed "COVID toes," dermatologists believe that purple, blue, or red lesions — similar to a cold-weather skin condition called pernio — appearing on patients' toes may be a way to diagnose the infection, as they have appeared in otherwise asymptomatic and severe cases alike.
"This might be your first clue that they have COVID when they don't have any other symptoms."
"They're typically painful to touch and could have a hot burning sensation," Dr. Ebbing Lautenbach, chief of infectious disease at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine, told USA Today.
Although there are no conclusive studies connecting this rash to COVID-19, "we are seeing this in unprecedented numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we have to think that there might be a relationship," Dr. Amy Paller, the chair of the Department of Dermatology at Northwestern University School of Medicine, said.
Another reason doctors are taking it seriously is because the lesions often appear in COVID-19 patients who do not exhibit any other telltale signs like a dry cough or fever.
"This is a manifestation that occurs early on in the diseases, meaning you have this first, then you progress," Lautenbach continued. "Sometimes this might be your first clue that they have COVID when they don't have any other symptoms."
Please be aware there are skin signs of covid. Purple red papules on the fingers and toes. Looks like chilblains/ pernio. May have no other covid symptoms. Seen in young people.— Dawn Wahezi (@DWahezi) April 11, 2020
Images of pernio like changes of Covid-19 from Italy @TamarPedsRheum @NataliaVasCan @IreneBlancoMD pic.twitter.com/5jKp04Yykq
Another interesting finding? The toe lesions appear in more children and young adults than any other age group, possibly because — as Lautenbach surmised — they have better immune systems. The rash tends to disappear within a week to 10 days, but some patients progress to showing respiratory symptoms as well.
Paller said parents should look at their children's feet for these lesions — they can be on one or several toes, and are often on the top, but can also be seen on the bottom of toes.
If you notice them on you or your child, she said there is no need to rush to the doctor's office. Instead, she recommended taking photos and waiting to reach out to your pediatrician if other symptoms present themselves.
"We don't want to see a mass of people demanding testing for COVID-19 right now when resources are sparse," Paller said. "So everyone take a deep breath with this."