Unusual sign of Covid can appear in the toes, as FLuQE variant spreads

Close-up of young woman massaging her foot in bedroom
-Credit: (Image: Getty)

At this point we are probably all aware of the common symptoms of COVID-19, such as a persistent cough, fatigue and a runny or blocked nose. However, since the start of the pandemic, a range of lesser-known side effects have continued to emerge. And according to some health bodies, this can include an unusual change in appearance of the toes.

The World Health Organisation officially announced that the Covid outbreak was no longer considered a public health emergency in 2023, but the virus has not gone away. Just recently, a number of new variants and subvariants of coronavirus have sparked concern across the globe.

FLiRT strains KP2 and JN1 have been linked to a rise in cases, and health authorities are also tracking two additional variants, named FLuQE and de-FLiRT. These have been blamed for a surge of cases in Australia, where Covid is now the third leading cause of death by an infectious disease for the first time in half a century.

The FLuQE variant is also rapidly spreading across the US. And the UK has seen a 12 percent rise in Covid cases in the most recent week, as reported by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). Some UK hospitals have reinstated mask mandates as a result.

Doctor wearing face mask
Some hospitals have reinstated a Covid mask mandate amid a rise in cases -Credit:Getty

Commenting on the FLuQE variant, otherwise known as KP.3, Adrian Esterman - a biostatistician from the University of South Australia - told SBS News : "KP.3 is already dominating in the US, and rapidly increasing in Australia."

Professor Paul Griffin, an infectious diseases physician and clinical microbiologist from the University of Queensland, added: "We're sicker than usual this winter and we're seeing a lot of things circulated simultaneously. That means a very significant proportion of the population is infected or has recently been infected.”

'Covid toes'

All the usual symptoms of Covid are still listed by the NHS, such as a cough, temperature, shortness of breath, headache, loss of taste or smell and fatigue among others. However, people are also being warned of a phenomenon known as “Covid toes”.

This can cause a person’s toes become swollen and darker in colour. The Mayo Clinic in the US reports that this is more common in teenagers and young adults and can also occur in the fingers.

And the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) notes that those affected often don’t display any other symptoms and if they do they are usually mild. It explains: “Many people don’t feel anything and only realise that they have COVID toes when they see the discolouration and swelling on their feet (or hands).

“Along with the swelling and discoloration, Covid toes can also cause blisters, itch, or pain. Some people develop painful raised bumps or areas of rough skin.”

The toes may turn pink, red or purple, the AAD says, and patients may also notice pus under the skin. Although there are no longer any self isolation rules the NHS still recommends staying home and avoiding contact with others for five days if you think you have Covid.