Are abdominal pains a symptom of COVID-19?

April 1, 2021

Data from millions of ZOE COVID Symptom Study app contributors has shown that abdominal pains can be a symptom of COVID-19. Here’s how to spot them and what they feel like.

What are abdominal pains like in COVID-19?

Abdominal (tummy) pains are a fairly rare symptom of COVID-19, so many people may not be aware to look out for them.

COVID-related abdominal pains are a generalised pain around the middle of your belly. You might feel sore all around the belly area.

If you’re experiencing a localised pain that appears in only one area of your belly, it’s unlikely to be COVID-19. Localised abdominal pain should still be checked by a healthcare professional because it could be caused by something else that needs treatment, such as appendicitis. 

While relatively rare, our data showed that abdominal pains were associated with a higher risk of needing hospital support with COVID-19, but this symptom almost always came along with other symptoms such as anosmia, headache and fatigue.

When do abdominal pains happen in COVID-19?

When present, abdominal pains usually occur in the first few days of illness and, in most people, tend to go quite quickly (within one or two days). Ongoing abdominal pain would be a reason to call your GP or 111. 

How common is abdominal pain in COVID-19?

Abdominal pains aren’t a very common symptom of COVID-19. Across all ages, roughly one in five people experience them over the course of their illness. 

Abdominal pains were slightly more common in primary school children (ages 5-11) where almost one in three reported the symptom.  

Less than 2% of people who were ill with COVID-19 reported abdominal pains as their only symptom.

What other symptoms of COVID-19 are common alongside abdominal pains?

Abdominal pains are most likely to occur alongside other symptoms. It’s important to be aware that when clustered with a lot of other symptoms, particularly diarrhoea and shortness of breath, abdominal pains were associated with a higher risk of needing hospital support, especially in older people.

In milder cases, abdominal pains usually appear alongside headaches and fatigue. They also tend to occur with a loss of smell and unusual muscle pains in adults. Abdominal pains can also sometimes happen alongside fever, a sore throat, and skipping meals across all age groups.    

Depending on your age and sex, you should contact your doctor if you have multiple different symptoms of COVID-19 in the first week of being ill.

What should I do if I have abdominal pains and think it might be COVID-19?

Abdominal pains can be caused by many things that aren’t serious - including trapped wind. These usually pass in a few hours. Consult your doctor if you have severe or ongoing abdominal pains as it could be something else. However, if you have abdominal pains alongside other symptoms of COVID-19, you should:

Stay safe and keep logging.

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