Deadly blood clots are being mistaken for Covid – the signs you need to know

DEADLY blood clots are being mistaken for Covid, doctors have warned.

Some of the symptoms of a blood clod, including breathlessness and blackouts, are wrongly being blamed on coronavirus.

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Therefore, patients with potentially life threatening blood clots are not receiving the treatment they need.

The warning comes from the charity Thrombosis UK, which fears there have been avoidable deaths as a result of misdiagnosed Covid. 

The charity says it has received repeated reports of patients with recognisable blood clot symptoms who have been advised their symptoms are most likely caused by Covid-19. 

As a result, many of these patients have only been correctly diagnosed with blood clots at a life-critical stage or, tragically, after death.

What is a blood clot?

Blood clots – medically called venous thromboembolism – is a condition in which a blood clot forms in the deep veins.

Usually it happens in the veins of the legs, known as "deep vein thrombosis" DVT.

This can cause pain and occasionally swelling.

Sometimes clots can break away and travel through the body to block the arteries to the lungs, known as pulmonary embolism or PE, which if large enough can be life-threatening.

They can cause multiple symptoms including leg pain and swelling, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

It is estimated that there are at least 70,000 events diagnosed in the UK annually with many ending in tragedy.

A DVT is more likely to happen if you:

  • are over 60
  • are overweight
  • smoke
  • have had DVT before
  • take the contraceptive pill or HRT
  • have cancer or heart failure
  • have varicose veins

There are also some temporary situations when you're at more risk of DVT. These include if you:

  • are staying in or recently left hospital – especially if you cannot move around much (like after an operation)
  • are confined to bed
  • go on a long journey (more than 3 hours) by plane, car or train
  • are pregnant or if you've had a baby in the previous 6 weeks
  • are dehydrated

Sometimes DVT can happen for no obvious reason.

Find out more information from the NHS or Thrombosis UK.

On top of this, its feared blood clots- which can occur at any age – are becoming more common as a result of the pandemic.

One of the biggest risk factors for a blood clot is lack of activity and long periods of sitting – and lockdown have driven people to spend hours of the day relaxing indoors.

Professor Beverley Hunt OBE said she has seen an increase in the number of people turning up at hospital with a dangerous blood clot.

Prof Hunt, Thrombosis UK Medical Director, said: “With an increase in telephone and e-consultation, we fear that health care professionals aren’t carrying out all the necessary investigations and tragically people are dying of undiagnosed blood clots as a result. 

“Knowing all the symptoms of blood clots and COVID-19 is the first step to avoiding this unnecessary loss of life.”


Bereaved families have told Thrombosis UK that loved ones were advised to have a Covid  test despite many of their symptoms having no link to Covid-19. 

When test results returned as negative and the symptoms persisted, Covid-19 was still suspected as being the cause, families say.

It means they did not get the treatment they needed early, which could have prevented their death.

It is estimated that there are at least 70,000 blood clots events are diagnosed in the UK every year.

Blood clots are involved with one in four deaths globally, Thrombosis UK reports. Most cases are in hospital patients, who are bedridden.


Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins of your body, usually in your legs. 

If a blood clot breaks off from a DVT and travels to the lung, this causes a pulmonary embolism (PE). This can be fatal.

The signs and symptoms of a DVT include:

  1. Swelling, usually in one leg (or arm)
  2. Leg pain or tenderness
  3. Reddish / blue skin discoloration
  4. Leg (or arm) warm to touch

The signs and symptoms of a PE include:

  1. Sudden shortness of breath
  2. Chest pain-sharp, stabbing; that may get worse with deep breaths
  3. A rapid heart rate
  4. Unexplained cough, sometimes with blood-streaked mucus

The symptoms of a blood clot are different to Covid-19.

But with such a huge focus on the disease that has killed almost 65,000 Brits, it has masked the true cause of other illnesses, doctors have said.

According the ZOE COVID Symptom Study and researchers from King’s College London, adults with a positive Covid test report these symptoms most frequently:

  1. Loss of smell (65 per cent)
  2. Persistent cough (57 per cent)
  3. Chest pain (43 per cent)
  4. Skipped Meals (42 per cent)
  5. Fever (34 per cent)
  6. Hoarse voice (32 per cent)
  7. Fatigue (30 per cent)
  8. Diarrhea (26 per cent)
  9. Abdominal pain (21 per cent)
  10. Delirium (18 per cent)
  11. Shortness of breath (15 per cent)

Breathlessness or shortness of breath is not one of the key symptoms of Covid-19, coming 11th on the list.

But it is one of the most important symptoms of blood clots in the lungs. 

It raises a key question about why shortness of breath is on the list that NHS111 and medical centres are using to triage patients for Covid-19.

The Sun has approached the NHS for comment. 

Tim Spector OBE, professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London, said: “The growing number of reports of misdiagnosis is worrying. 

“We are calling for all medical professionals to have a better understanding of all the symptoms associated with COVID-19 so that if a patient presents with a less common symptom like breathlessness, they investigate further to prevent missing potentially fatal conditions like thrombosis.

“It’s also important that medical staff are aware that classic symptoms (fever, cough and loss of smell) are rarer in some groups, such as children and the elderly, so they should always be looking for other causes.”


Becky Read, a fit and active 27-year-old, was one of those whose blood clots were ignored by doctors who told her she had the coronavirus.

She said: “I spent three weeks in hospital with severe blood clots. I first noticed issues a fortnight beforehand.”

Becky had been training for a half-marathon but was becoming very short of breath on short runs, and had what she thought were muscle pains.

“Then one night I woke in the worst pain I’d ever experienced, as if someone was stabbing me, on the whole right side of my torso; I was screaming in pain,” she recalled.

“I called 111 and was told Covid-19 can cause muscle pains and to have a test. I did, but it was negative. I was then told to self-isolate in case the test was inaccurate, but I still kept having severe muscle pains, nausea, confusion and light-headedness over the next few days. 

“It wasn’t until a few days later when I woke in such pain and my right leg had become mottled red and purple and I was struggling to breathe, that my partner just took me straight to A&E. 

“I had been diagnosed with blood clots and my partner was told I was fighting for my life.”

Becky was given treatment and was able to go home three weeks later, but it may take her two years for her to fully recover because her lung capacity has reduced.

She said: “Clots are a silent killer — and the doctor said he’s never seen as many people with them as he had recently.

“I wish I’d gone to hospital when I had the first muscle pain, but if I hadn’t gone when I did, I don’t think I’d be here now.”

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