COVID-19 or a Blood Clot: How to Distinguish the Two

Although blood clots related to some COVID-19 vaccines dominated recent news, they have always been a concern in senior care, as people aged 60 and older already live with a higher risk. This risk is even greater with obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption, cancer treatments, trauma, extended hospital stays or bedrest, and other factors.

Having a COVID-19 infection also heightens the risk that someone will have a blood clot. A significant challenge among senior care providers, however, is that COVID-19 and blood clots have several common symptoms that can lead to misdiagnosis, particularly during pandemic outbreaks that are still occurring.  Therefore, being able to distinguish between COVID and a blood clot is important, because delayed diagnosis can have serious consequences for individuals with blood clots.

Common symptoms shared by COVID-19 and blood clots include rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, skin discoloration, and loss of consciousness – that can lead to misdiagnosis. Blood clots, or venous thromboembolism (VTE), have several specific symptoms that can lead to a more accurate diagnosis. These included localized pain or tenderness, swelling, localized warmth, chest pains, and light-headedness.

As many as 300,000 deaths in the U.S. are attributed to blood clots annually. They most often involve deep veins of the limbs or groin and can travel through the circulatory system. A clot can get lodged in the lungs, resulting in a pulmonary embolism. Despite their high risk for blood clots, older adults can recover if the condition is caught early and treated promptly. Treatment includes anticoagulants to break up the clot and prevent future VTE.

For more information on distinguishing blood clots, download a free tip sheet.