What COVID nails look like, and if you should worry if you notice them.
There are so many weird things that can happen after you’ve recovered from COVID-19, from a persistent cough to hair loss. Now there’s a new side effect to keep on your radar: COVID nails, aka Beau’s lines.
Tim Spector, a British epidemiologist and principal investigator of the Zoe COVID Symptom Study app, recently tweeted about the phenomenon and included a photo of COVID nails, writing, “Do your nails look odd? COVID nails are increasingly being recognized as the nails recover after infection and the growth recovers leaving a clear line. Can occur without skin rashes and appears harmless.
Some people in the comments said they’ve definitely experienced this after having the coronavirus. “I noticed this and also hair loss 3 months after covid,” one wrote. “These were my post Covid nails! This was approx 2 months after the infection,” another said.
Plenty of others had questions in the comments section about COVID nails, what they look like, and if they’re something to worry about. Here’s what you need to know about COVID nails.
What are COVID nails, exactly?
There’s actually a medical term for this—Beau’s lines. “When you have major physiological stress, like an illness, you basically have a shifting in the nail cycle,” New York City dermatologist Doris Day, MD, tells Health. You’ll usually see this in all of your nails (not just one nail) and maybe even in your toenails.
If you’ve had COVID-19, you won’t see this right away. Instead, Dr. Day says that it will likely take two to three months to show up.
What do COVID nails look like?
They’re grooves that run horizontally across your nail plate, according to Harvard Health. COVID nails/Beau’s lines can look like ridges, grooves, or indentations, Dr. Day says.
Had COVID-19 but don’t see COVID nails? This won’t necessarily happen to everyone, and it’s more apparent in some people than others. “Some people don’t see it in the nail because it’s not so obvious,” Dr. Day says.
Does having COVID nails mean you had COVID-19?
Not necessarily—many illnesses can cause this, infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Maryland, tells Health.
“It has been well known that any kind of systemic disease can disrupt nail growth which can be reflected in abnormalities in the appearance of nails,” he says. “This can be seen with any critical illness.” The flu, an infection, and pretty much anything that causes a high fever can also cause these grooves. Even chemo can cause Beau’s lines. “Having it after chemotherapy is a classic case,” Dr. Day says.
As a whole, Beau’s nails are usually “nothing to worry about,” Dr. Day says, adding, “it just shows that your body went through something and you’re done with it.”
Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, tells Health: “The good news is that even without treatment it should correct itself. Once the nail change has happened, it is not permanent so it is just a waiting game for the nail to grow out.”