Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus, According to the CDC
You might have a bad case of COVID-19. You might get COVID-19 and feel fine. Either way, you might soon after have what Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, has warned about: a "post-viral" syndrome that attacks your body long after COVID leaves you. It's called Post-COVID Syndrome, or Long COVID, and its sufferers are dubbed "long haulers." Knowing the signs of this syndrome is one way to tell if you've already been infected. "Though there is limited information on late sequelae of COVID-19, reports of persistent symptoms in persons who recovered from acute COVID-19 illness have emerged," says the CDC. "The most commonly reported symptoms include" the following—read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss this comprehensive list of the Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
You May Feel Fatigue
This isn't just a "sleepy" feeling. Post-COVID fatigue can be debilitating, and resemble chronic fatigue syndrome, a.k.a. myalgic encephalomyelitis. And it may never go away. "About 75 to 80% of chronic fatigue syndrome cases are post-viral in nature," Dr. Mark VanNess, department chair of Health and Exercise Science at the University of the Pacific, tells ABC News. "The viral infection and following immune response are precipitating causes for long-term symptoms."
You May Have Dyspnea
This is otherwise known as shortness of breath, or difficult or labored breathing. "Persistent shortness of breath—not being able to climb up a few flights of stairs, for example, or being unable to complete usual exertional activities without getting winded—are complaints repeatedly seen on long-COVID forum sites," reports Scientific American. "Small studies have found persistent lung findings like fibrosis (a form of lung scarring), perhaps explaining these symptoms. A retrospective multicenter study published in the Lancet of 55 recovered noncritical patients found that over 60 percent of patients had persistent symptoms three months after discharge, while just over 70 percent had abnormal findings on their lung CT scans. A quarter had demonstrable reductions in lung function."
You May Develop Arthralgia
The joint pain can be serious. "The current outbreak of COVID-19, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is characterised by clinical signs and symptoms such as interstitial pneumonia, fatigue, and headache," says a study in the Lancet. "Arthralgia is one of the symptoms that occurs in patients with COVID-19, and is present in 14·9% of cases."
You May Have Chest Pain
"Early clinical studies have shown that COVID patients may experience complications like myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), abnormal heart rhythms and other cardiac sequelae weeks after contracting the virus," according to Scientific American. "These conditions may help explain why some long haulers experience shortness of breath, chest pain or their heart racing. One non–peer reviewed study, involving 139 health care workers who developed coronavirus infection and recovered, found that about 10 weeks after their initial symptoms, 37 percent of them were diagnosed with myocarditis or myopericarditis—and fewer than half of those had showed symptoms at the time of their scans."
You May Have Cognitive Impairment
Long-haulers complain of "brain fog," what Dr. Fauci calls "difficulty concentrating." "It has become increasingly recognized that the virus also attacks the nervous system," writes Andrew E. Budson, MD for Harvard Health. "Doctors in a large Chicago medical center found that more than 40% of patients with COVID showed neurologic manifestations at the outset, and more than 30% of those had impaired cognition. Sometimes the neurological manifestations can be devastating and can even lead to death."
You May Suffer Depression
"Researchers are carefully monitoring mental health outcomes," reports Scientific American. "Unquestionably, the longer-term psychosocial effects this virus is exacting on COVID survivors have yet to be fully elucidated. Anxiety, hopelessness, depression, even postraumatic stress disorder —especially in health care workers or patients following ICU experiences—have all been reported and need further study."
You May Have Myalgia
Myalgia means pains in your muscles or tendons. It often goes in tandem with other symptoms. "There is no medical definition or list of symptoms shared by all patients – two people with long Covid can have very different experiences. However, the most common feature is crippling fatigue. Others symptoms include: breathlessness, a cough that won't go away, joint pain, muscle aches, hearing and eyesight problems, headaches, loss of smell and taste as well as damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys and gut," reports the BBC.
You May Get Headaches
Post-COVID headaches can be like a jackhammer on your brain that does not stop. "In the early hours of an April morning, at her home in Erie, Malea Anderson woke up with what felt like an explosion of ice water up her spine and into her head," reports the AP. "She had a massive headache and tried to get out of bed to go to the bathroom, but her limbs wouldn't cooperate. She feared she was having a stroke." She wasn't. It was Post-COVID Syndrome.
You May Have a Cough
"Initial observational experience with post-COVID-19 patients supports the conclusion that there is not a high incidence of post-COVID-19 chronic cough and, when such a persistent cough does occur, it is not reported as severe, nor as the most troublesome symptom affecting a patient," says one study. But it can happen.
You May Have a Fever
Your temperature may rise above 100.4 degrees. "Recurrent fevers, persistent constipation or diarrhea, intense bouts of fatigue, debilitating brain fog and vivid hallucinations — some people who catch COVID-19 experience symptoms like these for months on end, and we're still learning why that is," reports Live Science.
You May Get Palpitations
"We are starting to see more patients with cardiovascular symptoms ranging from chest pain to palpitations to presyncope or syncope – which is feeling lightheaded, like you're going to faint – that are often accompanied by neurologic symptoms such as brain fogginess, headaches, numbness, or other sensations in various parts of the body," reports the University of California San Francisco. "These are part of a constellation of symptoms that folks in this so-called COVID-19 long-hauler category are experiencing."
You May Have "More Serious Complications"
These "appear to be less common but have been reported," says the CDC. "These complications include:
- Cardiovascular: myocardial inflammation, ventricular dysfunction
- Respiratory: pulmonary function abnormalities
- Renal: acute kidney injury
- Dermatologic: rash, alopecia
- Neurological: olfactory and gustatory dysfunction, sleep dysregulation, altered cognition, memory impairment
- Psychiatric: depression, anxiety, changes in mood."
What to Do if You Experience These Symptoms
Contact a medical professional immediately if you or someone you know is suffering from Long COVID. Doctors are still learning about the syndrome, but can connect you with specialists who can try to help alleviate your symptoms, although there is no cure in sight. To confirm if you have had coronavirus, ask your doctor for an antibody test, although these are not 100% accurate. And try not to get COVID-19 in the first place—follow the public health fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live, and wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.