Can Covid Give You Diarrhoea? This Is What The Experts Think

Upset stomachs are not a common Covid symptom anymore, but can still impact one in five positive cases.
milan2099 via Getty Images

While most people are now aware of the most common Covid symptoms – from a sore throat to a headache and fever – diarrhoea has not been mentioned that much.

And, according to the Zoe Health Study which logs data from millions of app users, it doesn’t even make the top 20 most common signs you may have been infected with the new virus.

But, contributors to the Zoe Health Study have suffered from diarrhoea while testing positive, even if they’re vaccinated.

It is also listed as a symptom on the NHS website.

Here’s what you need to know about the lesser-common symptom.

How many people report an upset Covid stomach?

According to the Zoe data, around a third of adults aged over 35 (30%) had diarrhoea when they tested positive during the Alpha wave of infections back in December 2020.

However, the symptom has dropped off with later waves of other variants and vaccination rollouts.

Throughout the later Delta and Omicron waves, only one in five reported experiencing diarrhoea if they had two or three vaccine doses.

There was another spike in gastrointestinal symptoms reported back in January 2022, although Zoe later clarified: “Some of this was related to the Omicron wave, but there also seemed to be a wave of other non-Covid tummy bugs going around too.”

Why do you get diarrhoea from Covid?

According to the specialists, Covid causes an upset stomach because “the virus can invade cells in the gut and disrupt its normal function”.

They added: “Covid can be transmitted through poo and contaminated surfaces and hands.”

This means it’s still important to wash your hands thoroughly and clean your bathrooms if you share them with anyone else while having diarrhoea.

Diarrhoea was linked to those needing more hospital support, especially if it was accompanied by abdominal pain.

When would you get diarrhoea?

Zoe believes it can act as an early sign of the infection, starting on the first day and building up during the first week.

It can last up to seven days in adults, but usually subsides after two or three.

It’s also common among those suffering from long Covid.

Would that be your main Covid symptom?

If it’s Covid, you are likely to experience other symptoms as well such as a headache or loss of appetite.

When reports of suffering from diarrhoea were higher towards the start of the pandemic, ZOE’s data found there was a series of gastrointestinal Covid symptoms.

This included loss of smell, sore throat, chest pain and no cough.

Here’s how to look after yourself with an upset stomach

If you have diarrhoea you should still continuing eating and drinking if possible, to replenish your body’s fluids.

You do not need to eat or avoid specific foods, but make sure you wash your hands – and bathrooms – thoroughly.

Try to stay at home if you can, although it’s not longer legally mandated, and wear a high quality mask.

The NHS also recommends staying at home and resting for at least two days, and taking paracetamol if you’re in pain.

However, it urges sufferers not to have fruit juice or fizzy drinks as that worsen the diarrhoea. Avoid giving aspirin to those under 16, and do not give children under 12 medicine to stop the diarrhoea.

It also recommends making baby formula at its usual strength if they’re sick, and to provide smaller feeds more often if they’ve being sick.