Gastro-intestinal problems appearing in Covid patients, says GP

Illona Duffy says some cases are remaining positive for much longer than before

Covid-19 patients are increasingly reporting gastro-intestinal problems and longer-lasting symptoms in the current wave of infections, according to a Monaghan GP.

Illona Duffy says she has many more patients presenting with vomiting and diarrhoea "lasting for days" while they are positive for Covid-19.

While patients are also experiencing expected respiratory symptoms such as congestion, sinusitis and severe sore throat, they can remain symptomatic for much longer than before, she has observed.

Hospital Report

Dr Duffy says she has treated a number of healthcare workers who are still positive on an antigen test 10 days after their original infection, and this was having a serious impact on health services.


The rise in infections involving the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron could be responsible for changes in the type of symptoms observed in recent weeks, she suggested.

She said it was disappointing that GPs have no formal way of providing feedback from their patient observations, so that new trends can be identified quickly. “We’re on the ground, but he have no means of feeding in vital information as an early warning system.”

She said patients were also presenting with “aches and pains all over”, temperatures and fatigue, though it was not clear whether these symptoms were more pronounced than earlier in the pandemic.

Tramore GP Austin Byrne said more of his patients were reporting a significant post-Covid wheeze, while the number of patients with heavy flu in the last two weeks is higher than previously. There has also been a "marked uptick" in the numbers requiring assessment visits.

Cork paediatrician Dr Niamh Lynch said she has treated a number of children suffering from persistent post-Covid cough, exacerbations of asthma and gastro-intestinal symptoms.

In most cases, symptoms were mild but the cough can be “draining”, she said.

“Some of this could happen in a normal winter anyway. But my concern is we don’t know how much Covid there is in schools at the moment, since we stopped testing.”

In December, UK researchers found the most common symptoms of Covid-19 were a runny nose, headaches, fatigue, sneezing and sore throats.

According to Prof Tim Spector, who led the Zoe study that gathered information on symptoms from almost 5 million app users, the top five symptoms are "like a cold - even in the elderly and more vulnerable".

Dublin GP Dr Ray Walley said in his experience the symptoms are exactly as described by Prof Spector.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times