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Coronavirus: Delirium is a “key symptom” in frail adults

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Doctors and caregivers should watch out for signs of confusion or strange behavior in frail adults, as this can be an early warning sign for Covid-19, research suggests.

Even without a cough or fever, delirium is more common in vulnerable people over the age of 65 than other, healthier people of the same age.

But it is not yet clear why this extreme confusion or delirium is happening.

The study calls for more awareness in hospitals and nursing homes.

The three main symptoms of Covid infection are a new and prolonged cough, a temperature above 37.8 ° C and a change in smell or taste. About 85% of people will have at least one of these symptoms.

However, studies show that some age groups may have other symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting in children.

Symptoms of weakness

This study from King̵

7;s College London analyzed data from more than 800 people over the age of 65.

These included 322 patients in a Covid-19 hospital and 535 people using the Covid Symptom Study app to record their symptoms or register health reports on behalf of friends and family.

All had received a positive test result.

The researchers found that older adults admitted to the hospital who were classified as fragile were more likely to have delirium as one of their symptoms than people of the same age who were not fragile.

Fragility is used by doctors to describe older people who have difficulty recovering from everyday illnesses, strains and accidents. They are also more likely to have falls and end up in hospital when they are sick.

For every fifth patient in a Covid hospital, delirium is their only symptom.

“Changes in mental state”

Among people over 65 using the application, delirium is more common in weak people with Covid-19 than in healthier people of the same age with the infection.

For them, possible delirium is defined as having any symptoms of confusion, disorientation or drowsiness.

Fatigue and shortness of breath were also common among infirm app users.

And one-third of app users who said they had experienced delirium did not have the classic symptoms of cough or fever.

“Older, weak people are at greater risk for Covid-19 than those who are healthier, and our results show that delirium is a key symptom in this group,” said Dr. Rose Penfold of King’s College London. .

“Physicians and caregivers should be alert to any changes in the mental state of the elderly, such as confusion or strange behavior, and be aware of the fact that this may be an early sign of a coronavirus infection.”

The study also emphasizes the importance of protecting people in nursing homes, where the virus can spread quickly, making sure that hand washing, hygiene and PPE (personal protective equipment) are a priority.

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