COVID-19 symptoms typically include fever, cough and shortness of breath. But for older adults — a population more at risk for developing severe, life threatening complications — they may exhibit none of these symptoms. This complicates the effort in treating them in a timely manner, say physicians.
According to CNN, seniors may feel lethargic, sleep more than usual, and lose their appetite. They may also seem confused and disoriented, sometimes becoming dizzy and falling. Others stop speaking or simply collapse.
"With a lot of conditions, older adults don't present in a typical way, and we're seeing that with COVID-19 as well," Dr. Camille Vaughan, section chief of geriatrics and gerontology at Emory University, told CNN.
Experts say that as we age, our immune response may be altered, and underlying diseases can mask or interfere with signs of infection. Previous neurological trauma such as strokes can also alter cough reflexes, and those with cognitive impairment may be unable to communicate their symptoms.
They add that it is crucial to recognize any danger signs since, if early signs of COVID-19 are missed, seniors may deteriorate before getting the necessary medical care, according to CNN.
Sylvain Nguyen, a geriatrician at the University of Lausanne Hospital Center in Switzerland, conducted research on the COVID-19 symptoms in older adults, according to MSN. Nguyen lists lethargy and fatigue among the most common symptoms, so while stay-at-home orders may prompt more afternoon naps, if an elderly family member or friend is sleeping more than usual, this could be one of the atypical signs.
Dr. Sam Torbati, co-chair and medical director of the Ruth and Harry Roman Emergency Department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, tells MSN says that some older patients cannot speak.
"When we test them, we discover what's producing these changes is a central nervous system effect of coronavirus," he said.
Be observant, say experts.
"Someone may just be having a bad day. But if they're not themselves for a couple of days, absolutely reach out to a primary care doctor or a local health system hotline to see if they meet the threshold for coronavirus testing," Vaughan told CNN. "Be persistent. If you get a ‘no' the first time and things aren't improving, call back and ask again."
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