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One Big Sign You've Already Had COVID, According to Physicians

Here's what to watch for.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

While there's still many things medical experts don't know about COVID, one thing is for certain–it affects everyone differently. Some people will have a severe case that requires treatment or hospitalization, others will experience mild flu-like symptoms and recover in a few days at home, while some people don't even realize they've had the virus. "Now that the world is slowly starting to open back up, many people wonder if they've already had COVID. So while it's impossible to say for sure without a test, there are some signs that you may have been infected with the virus at some point," Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies tells us. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


How Does Someone Not Know They've Had COVID?

Young woman in a medical mask lies in bed.

Dr. Mitchell says, "It is possible to have people have a positive test for COVID but have no obvious clinical symptoms. As we now know, the symptoms of COVID can vary from a slightly runny nose to more severe symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath. Some people have these symptoms, especially if you have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and a wide range of medications. There are even medications and chemotherapy treatments, for example, whose side effects can mimic a COVID infection. We will likely not have an accurate count of the people who get COVID. I know lots of people "who have never had COVID." They say this because they never bothered to test, and others had barriers to testing. Or, if they tried, they only tried once before their home antigen tests showed a positive test."


Long-Term Effects COVID Can Have

Young sick woman laying in her bed.

According to Dr. Mitchell, "Reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 means a person was infected, recovered, and then later became infected again. After recovering from COVID-19, most individuals will have some protection from repeat infections. However, reinfections do occur after COVID-19. We are still learning more about these reinfections and ongoing studies of COVID-19 will help us understand more. The severity of illness caused by COVID-19 can range from asymptomatic (no symptoms) to very severe, including pneumonia and death. People who have had COVID -19 and recovered may have long-term effects, such as fatigue and chest pain. These effects can last for weeks or months after recovery. Some people also report 'smokers' cough,' even if they have never smoked cigarettes." 


Fever, Chills, and/or Fatigue

Sick woman laying in bed under wool blanket holding thermometer and tissue. Ill girl caught cold flu. Pills and tablets on table.

Dr. Mitchell explains, "The first indicator is if you have sudden symptoms that include fever, chills, and fatigue. These are all common symptoms of covid, and if you experienced them out of the blue, it's possible that you had the virus. When you have an infection, your body's immune system kicks into high gear to fight it off. This causes several changes in your body, resulting in symptoms like fever, chills, and fatigue. Your body increases its production of white blood cells, which help to fight off the infection. This increase in white blood cells can lead to a higher than average body temperature or fever. In addition, the increased production of white blood cells can cause inflammation and swelling, particularly in the lymph nodes, leading to chills. Finally, as your body works hard to fight the infection, you may feel fatigued. While these symptoms can be uncomfortable, they usually sign that your body is effectively fighting off the disease."


Loss Of Taste Or Smell

woman trying to sense smell of half fresh orange, has symptoms of Covid-19

"One of the most common symptoms of covid is a loss of taste or smell," says Dr. Mitchell. "This can often be the first sign that something is wrong, even before other more well-known symptoms appear. There are a few possible explanations for why this happens. First, it is thought that the virus may damage the nose cells responsible for our sense of smell. Additionally, covid can cause inflammation in the nose and throat, making it challenging to taste or smell properly. Finally, the virus may trigger an immune response that interferes with our ability to taste or smell. While a loss of taste or smell does not guarantee that you have covid, it is a prevalent symptom and should be taken seriously. If you experience this symptom, please seek medical attention immediately."


New Cough or Shortness Of Breath

Young woman sitting alone on her sofa at home and coughing.

Dr. Mitchell says, "New cough or shortness of breath is a sign that you have COVID-19. When you have COVID-19, your body is trying to fight the infection. This causes your lungs to fill with fluid, making breathing hard. Coughing is your body's way of clearing the juice from your lungs. Shortness of breath can also signify other respiratory infections, such as the flu. However, if you have a new cough or shortness of breath and you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, it's essential to see a doctor immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment are the keys to a successful recovery."


Unexplained Joint Pain Or Worsening Migraines

Dr. Mitchell shares, "The common symptoms associated with COVID-19 are unexplained joint pain or worsening migraines. While these may seem like minor ailments, they can indicate the virus. Joint pain is often one of the first signs that something is wrong, and it can be a sign that the body is fighting off an infection. Additionally, migraines are a common symptom of COVID-19, and they tend to worsen as the disease progresses. If you are experiencing either of these symptoms, it is essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible. By doing so, you can receive the treatment you need and help prevent the virus's spread." And don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather