A paramedic who tested positive for COVID-19 has warned it can trigger unusual symptoms after she became infected without suffering a tell-tale cough or high temperature.
Kirstine Adkin, 24, first began suffering with headaches and back pain but initially put it down to stress at work.
But she soon realised her senses were so severely impaired that she couldn’t smell or taste even pungent foods like garlic, ground coffee or cinnamon.
Soon afterwards her condition swiftly deteriorated and she was left struggling to breathe.
Now the The NHS paramedic, from Poole, Dorset, has shared a diary she kept during her illness in a bid to make others aware of the less common signs that they may have coronavirus.
South Western Ambulance Service paramedic Kirstine Adkin, 24, has released a week-long diary of her symptoms after she contracted coronavirus without having a cough or a fever
The South Western Ambulance Service medic is now warning people to be on the lookout for less obvious symptoms and to heed Government advice to stay indoors.
She said: ‘I’m a 24-year-old girl working on the front line as an NHS paramedic.
‘I tested positive for COVID-19 and wanted to share my experience to warn others who display less ‘obvious’ symptoms like I did at first.’
She added: ‘I am now well and I’m feeling very grateful that I am able to continue to work when so many people are facing real hardship during this crisis – I’m one of the lucky ones right now.’
Dorset-based Kirstine decided to share a diary covering her week-long fight against the deadly virus which has so far claimed more than 21,000 British lives.
Day 1 – I developed severe headaches above both eyes, which got worse and worse. The worst headaches I’ve ever had.
Day 2 – I woke up with a headache, but put it down to stress headaches. Given the current situation at work, I didn’t think a headache was very significant. About midday I started getting a really achy back. Again, working as a paramedic involves lifting people down the stairs.
It’s not uncommon for me to get an achy back. However, that night the pain in my back was so bad I realised that this probably wasn’t my normal aches.
Day 3 – I woke with full body aches still mostly in my back and my head. I called in sick, still unsure whether I was doing the right thing as I didn’t have a cough, and no temperature.
Was it just a bad back and headaches due to the stress we’re all under? Later that day everything got worse, I didn’t leave bed, and by the evening I had some pains in my chest and felt a little breathless when moving around.
I decided to disinfect my surfaces in my bedroom, and that’s when I realised I couldn’t smell a thing. I proceeded to smell everything around the house, but absolutely nothing!
Day 4 – The aches and pains started to improve. Only today I developed a slight dry cough. The coughing was constant for an hour or two in the morning but then was so spread out I’d maybe only have an episode of coughing once every four hours.
I realised today that I also couldn’t taste, although I probably couldn’t yesterday but I didn’t eat anything to notice.
Day 5 – Aches gone, but still feeling very tired. Smell and taste still completely gone. Like, I can literally eat cinnamon, raw garlic, ground coffee and I can not taste or smell it at all! Yes I have tested almost everything I could find.
Day 6 – Feel my normal self but still no taste or smell, which is very upsetting when your a big foodie like me but I’m grateful I’ve recovered with only mild symptoms, my heart goes out to all those seriously poorly.
On the first day she described the ‘worst headaches I’ve ever had’ above both eyes.
These got worse and worse but proved to be the extent of her problems at the beginning of the week.
As the headache persisted the following day, she put it down to the increased stress at work due to the increased pressure during the global pandemic.
She later became achy but felt this was a common occurrence given her job as a paramedic involves her having to lift people up.
‘It’s not uncommon for me to get an achy back,’ she said.
‘However that night the pain in my back was so bad I realised that this probably wasn’t my normal aches.’
With no respite on the third day, Kirstine was forced to call in sick even though she had no cough or temperature.
But her back was still severely aching and her headaches had not subsided.
‘Later that day everything got worse, I didn’t leave bed, and by the evening I had some pains in my chest and felt a little breathless when moving around,’ she explained.
With an increased focus on cleanliness, the 24-year-old made the decision to disinfect all her surfaces in her bedroom when it became apparent that she ‘couldn’t smell a thing’.
She said: ‘I proceeded to smell everything around the house, but absolutely nothing!’
The fourth day saw the emergence of a ‘dry’ cough which was constant ‘for an hour or two’ first thing in the morning.
Coughing became less frequent as the day wore on but the biggest development for Kirstine was that she had now lost her sense of taste.
The feeling of aches and pains had disappeared on the fifth day but she still felt particularly worn out and tired.
In terms of taste, she said she could ‘literally eat cinnamon’ and ‘raw garlic’ and not taste a thing.
Her sixth day at home saw her mild symptoms disappear but the diary has been released to help raise awareness for those who may not be showcasing fevers or possessing long-lasting coughs.
Kirstine – who is now returning to work on the front line – said symptoms manifest themselves differently in each person and has begged people to obey the lockdown to protect NHS staff and key workers.
She added: ‘So no temperature for me, only a mild, mild cough. For me the other symptoms of COVID – headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, loss of smell and taste – were more prevalent.
The 24-year-old has released a six-day diary detailing how she went from a headache and a bad back to realising she had lost her sense of smell, sense of taste and being left breathless
‘Just goes to show that this disease affects each of us differently.
‘I know the Government guidance is a persistent cough or a temperature, but I had neither, so please don’t take the risk and stay at home if you start to develop the other symptoms too.
‘Fingers crossed my taste and smell returns soon, I’ve got three Easter eggs sat waiting for me.
‘Side note: Whilst I was still working last week there were so many cars still on the road. Blatant ignorance to the advice we’ve been given which is for our benefit.
‘I will go back to work next week, to help those that need it. Please stay home for me and all of us NHS/key workers and our families.’
Data gathered by the organisation ENT UK, which represents ear, nose and throat specialists, suggests the inability to smell — and often taste — may be the very first symptom of COVID-19 and start within hours of infection.
Many people appear not to develop any further signs, making a full recovery without even realising they had the coronavirus. They are thought to be mostly healthy young adults whose immune systems react sufficiently to the virus to contain it within the nose, preventing it spreading to the lungs, where it can cause potentially fatal pneumonia.
As a result, warns ENT UK, some COVID-19 patients are not being identified as infected or advised to self-isolate – and may well be spreading the virus to others.
‘I have seen a huge increase in the number of patients attending my clinic with a sudden loss of smell,’ says Professor Nirmal Kumar, president of ENT UK and an ear, nose and throat specialist at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust.
‘It’s up to about four patients a week, mostly under 40 and with no other COVID-19 symptoms. I usually see no more than one a month.’
Professor Kumar is advising patients with no obvious explanation for their loss of smell to self-isolate for at least seven days in case they have COVID-19, even though this is not the current government recommendation.
ENT UK has called on officials in the UK to recognise the symptoms as signs of coronavirus infection.
Past president of ENT UK, Dr Tony Narula, added: ‘Normally, when you get a cold or flu virus, you get a blocked nose and lose some smell because you can’t get air (which carries smells with it) into the nostrils,’ he says.
‘With COVID-19 it’s different. The virus seems to strike directly at the olfactory nerve at the roof of the nose, just between the eyes.
‘One reason so many people are suffering is that this nerve is not covered in protective tissue, so the virus attacks it and causes inflammation which stops smell signals reaching the brain.’