'COVID nails' - an unusual sign that you might have had COVID-19
Reviewed by our clinical team
Updated 24th Feb 2022 - for the most up to date coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance and information, please visit the NHS or government’s dedicated pages. This advice may differ in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in spring 2020, we’ve seen various reports of associated symptoms, including fever, coughing, headaches, vomiting, loss of smell, and dizziness. According to some experts, your finger or toe nails can look different after you've had COVID-19.
What are 'COVID nails'?
'COVID nails' is a casual term for changes to the appearance of the nails in some people who’ve had COVID-19. In medical terms, this condition is known as Beau’s lines (deep ridges across the finger nails), and is not unique to COVID-19, but rather a general reaction to an illness or injury.
Nail changes as a possible sign of having had COVID-19 was brought to the public’s attention by Professor Tim Spector, who took to Twitter in early May 2021 and wrote: “Do your nails look odd? COVID nails are increasingly being recognised as the nails recover after infection and the growth recovers leaving a clear line. Can occur without skin rashes and appears harmless”.
Several cases of COVID nails have been reported, including in this case study from September 2020.
Who is Professor Tim Spector?
Professor Spector is the principal investigator for the ZOE COVID Symptom Study. This is an app that gathers public information about the spread of infection and the variety of symptoms associated with the virus.
What are Beau’s lines?
Beau’s lines (sometimes referred to as Beau lines) are deep horizontal lines or grooves in the nails. They can develop after a period of illness (usually a virus) or an injury and are caused by a temporary disruption of nail growth. The distance between the groove in the nail and the nail bed can indicate how much time has passed since the injury or illness first occurred.
What are the causes of Beau’s lines?
Pretty much anything can cause Beau's lines, the most common cause is trauma, for example picking at the nail folds. Beau's lines can also be caused by chronic illnesses like diabetes, or they can appear after a viral infection.
Do I need to do anything about Beau’s lines?
The NHS recommends that you should see your GP if your nails have changed in appearance, and you aren’t sure of the cause. Remember: lots of things can cause Beau’s lines, so they’re not necessarily a sign that you’ve had COVID-19.
The good news is that Beau’s lines are harmless. No treatment is required as they will grow out naturally in time.
What are some other symptoms of COVID-19?
According to the NHS, the three main symptoms of the virus are:
- High temperature – your chest or back will feel hot to the touch
- New and continuous cough – you’re coughing a lot, normally for more than an hour, or having at least three coughing episodes in a day
- Changes to your taste and smell – food might taste or smell different, or you may not be able to taste or smell it at all
Most people who have COVID-19 symptoms experience at least one of these symptoms.
However, lots of other symptoms have been reported by members of the public who’ve had the virus. A good resource for finding out about these symptoms is the ZOE COVID Symptom Study, which has information on the following symptoms, amongst others:
What’s important to remember with these kinds of symptoms is that the cause isn’t necessarily COVID-19. Fatigue, abdominal pains, and skin rashes can all be caused by a number of things, so it’s important not to panic and assume the worst.
However, if you have one of these symptoms alongside a “classic” COVID symptom like fever or loss of smell, it’s a good idea to follow the current NHS guidelines: namely, get tested and self-isolate until you receive the results.
Get tested for COVID-19 with Online Doctor
If you need to get tested for COVID-19, you can order a home test kit from Online Doctor. We provide swab tests (which check if you have the virus currently) and antibody tests (which check if you’ve had it in the past).
Find out more by visiting our online COVID-19 testing clinic.