Doctors have warned that persistent hiccups could be a new Covid-19 symptom as they continue to find out more about the virus.

The discovery comes after a man in the US, who tested positive for Covid-19, had persistent hiccups despite having no other symptoms of the bug.

In April, the 62-year-old patient from Chicago was admitted to hospital, where doctors found he had unexplained weight loss along with the hiccups, according to a case report published in the American Journal of Emergency medicine.

The man, who has diabetes, said he had the hiccups for four days straight and had unintentionally lost 11.3kg over four months.

Advertisement

He didn't have a fever, nasal congestion, sore throat, chest pain, or shortness of breath.

On the man's arrival to the emergency department, he had a temperature of 37.3C and his heart rate was 96 beats per minute.

Doctors then carried out a chest X-ray and found groundglass opacities on his lungs, which indicates a person may be struggling with their lung capacity.

A chest X-ray demonstrating groundglass opacities in the right upper lung, left mid and lower lungs. Photo / The American Journal of Emergency Medicine
A chest X-ray demonstrating groundglass opacities in the right upper lung, left mid and lower lungs. Photo / The American Journal of Emergency Medicine

A chest scan found that this was scattered through the lungs.

The patient was then admitted to an isolation room where he received treatment for possible pneumonia and was tested for Covid-19.

He was then admitted to the Covid-19 medical unit as a person under investigation, where on arrival his fever went up to 38.4C and the patient's heart-rate increased to 104 beats per minute.

Doctors placed him on airborne isolation and also trialled him on anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.

The following day his results came back and he tested positive for Covid-19.

Advertisement

"Information regarding the clinical characteristics of Covid-19 is rapidly evolving as data continues to emerge throughout the world," the report reads.

"To our knowledge, this is the first case report of persistent hiccups as the presenting complaint in a Covid -19 positive patient in emergency medicine literature.

A CT scan of the chest demonstrating peripheral groundglass opacities of the upper lung lobes. Photo / The American Journal of Emergency Medicine
A CT scan of the chest demonstrating peripheral groundglass opacities of the upper lung lobes. Photo / The American Journal of Emergency Medicine
A CT scan of the chest demonstrating scattered ground glass opacities in the lower lung lobes. Photo / The American Journal of Emergency Medicine
A CT scan of the chest demonstrating scattered ground glass opacities in the lower lung lobes. Photo / The American Journal of Emergency Medicine

The report said the case highlights two important issues when it comes to evaluating patients with hiccups.

"First, it stresses the importance of a detailed evaluation in those presenting with hiccups, at a minimum taking a thorough history, physical exam, obtaining basic laboratory work, and getting a chest X-ray.

"Second, physicians should keep Covid-19 infection on their differential as more cases are discovered through atypical presentations. Providers must be vigilant and maintain personal protective equipment to avoid exposure from the undifferentiated patient."

According to the World Health Organisation, the most common symptoms of Covid-19 include fever, dry cough and tired.

Advertisement

The less common symptoms include:

• aches and pains
• sore throat
• diarrhoea
• conjunctivitis
• headache
• loss of taste or smell
• a rash on skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes

Serious symptoms include:

• difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• chest pain or pressure
• loss of speech or movement

Today, director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield advised Kiwis to ask their GP or call Healthline if they have symptoms of Covid-19, and to stay at home if unwell.