8 Signs You Already Had COVID, According to a Long-Hauler
Calling it "a cautionary tale," on Tuesday, CNN's Alisyn Camerota spoke with Abby Gresko Barclay, a COVID-19 sufferer who has been dealing with various coronavirus symptoms for nine months. She is what's known as a "long-hauler," someone whose body has technically cleared the virus but continues to experience physical effects. When Barclay first began to experience symptoms last March, she had a hard time getting tested for COVID-19 because she didn't have a fever. (Now, doctors know that COVID is often, but not always, accompanied by fever). Since then, "It's been all over the place," she said. "It's impacted my entire body." Here's what Barclay said her initial symptoms were, some of which she continues to experience today. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Barclay said she experienced severe stomach cramping and diarrhea. Early in the pandemic, doctors didn't necessarily associate this with COVID. Now they know that COVID very often causes gastrointestinal symptoms—in some patients, it's the only coronavirus symptom they have. A review of studies published in November found that one in five COVID patients report GI issues of some kind.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
Swollen lymph nodes are a common sign of infection, and because COVID-19 involves the respiratory system, it may cause swollen nodes in your neck.
This is one of the hallmark symptoms of COVID-19, according to the CDC. A European study of 1,420 coronavirus patients found that 53% of them reported having a sore throat.
Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath is a common symptom of COVID-19, and it can linger for weeks after you've recovered from the illness. Take note: Serious trouble breathing could be a sign of ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome), which can be fatal. It requires immediate medical attention. Harvard Medical School advises that if you find yourself breathing harder or having trouble getting air each time you exert yourself, call your doctor.
Chest pain, which can be frighteningly reminiscent of a heart attack, has been reported by many long-haulers. It may be caused by costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage that connects ribs to the breastbone—or it may be a heart issue. "Sometimes people get inflammation of the heart tissue itself and some chest pains. We've even had some people present with what they thought was a heart attack, and in fact, it was inflammation the heart tissue that was caused by the virus itself," says Dr. Stacey Rizza, a Mayo Clinic infectious disease specialist and researcher.
Muscles can become inflamed during any illness. COVID-19 causes inflammation throughout the body, and muscle pain has been frequently reported. About two-thirds of patients in the Long Hauler Symptom Survey reported long-term muscle pain or soreness.
According to the CDC, chills are a common COVID signifier. They're caused by the body trying to regulate its internal temperature and may follow or accompany a fever. According to the USC School of Medicine, chills without a fever can indicate your body is trying to fight off an infection.
Barclay once walked seven to 10 miles a day; now she's too tired to walk a mile. Fatigue—ranging from mild to severe—is a common symptom of COVID. According to the Long Hauler Symptom Survey, 100% of COVID patients reported lingering fatigue.
How to Avoid Becoming a Long-Hauler
If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned here, contact your medical professional. And do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.