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Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID Via Your Lungs

You might cough up blood, have trouble breathing or rattle. Knowing the signs can save your life.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Among the many terrors of the coronavirus—delirium, toe rashes, death—none besides fatigue has been as prevalent as the respiratory symptoms. COVID-19, after all, spreads by droplets inhaled into your body, making your tender lungs susceptible. So how do you know if your pulmonary system has been affected? A new study analyzed the symptoms of those still in pain after the virus has left their body—dubbed "long haulers," they suffer from Long COVID—over six months. Read on to see the specific pulmonary symptoms—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.


You Might Cough Up Blood

Man coughing covering mouth with a tissue

Some long haulers cough so much, they cough up blood. "This is 18 weeks," Marjorie Roberts, 59, a life coach, told NPR about her Long COVID. "This is 18 weeks that I have been suffering. The shortness of breath comes when it wants to—don't know which symptom is going to come back. If I have a headache, I get scared because I know the headache can be so intense. If I cough too much, I cough up blood. And I just pray that they find a cure."


You Might Have Other Respiratory and Sinus Issues

Sad woman with face mask sitting indoors at home,

"Long haulers refers to individuals that have had COVID infection, but their symptoms last longer than what we typically expect," said Dr. Shirin Mazumder, an infectious disease specialist at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, told WREG. Besides fatigue, loss of smell, and loss of taste—"In addition to that patients complain of dizziness, brain fog, a hard time concentrating, perhaps long term headaches and dizziness and even some respiratory symptoms. Things like shortness of breath and cough," Mazumder said.


You Might Have a Rattling of Breath

shortness of breath

"There are several types of abnormal breath sounds," reports the University of Florida Health. "The 4 most common are:

  • Rales. Small clicking, bubbling, or rattling sounds in the lungs. They are heard when a person breathes in (inhales). They are believed to occur when air opens closed air spaces. Rales can be further described as moist, dry, fine, or coarse.
  • Rhonchi. Sounds that resemble snoring. They occur when air is blocked or air flow becomes rough through the large airways.
  • Stridor. Wheeze-like sound heard when a person breathes. Usually it is due to a blockage of airflow in the windpipe (trachea) or in the back of the throat.
  • Wheezing. High-pitched sounds produced by narrowed airways. Wheezing and other abnormal sounds can sometimes be heard without a stethoscope."


You Might Be Sneezing

Man sneezing into his elbow.

If you're sneezing, remember "covering coughs and sneezes and keeping hands clean can help prevent the spread of serious respiratory illnesses like influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and COVID-19," says the CDC, adding:

  • "Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Throw used tissues in the trash
  • If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands"
  • Remember to immediately wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing."


You Might Have a Cough With Mucus Production

Woman sick cold

Edison Chiluisa, a 51-year-old hospital worker, "seems to embody much of the worst the virus can do," according to the Washington Post. "His heart races. His lungs are inflamed. His chest aches and feels constricted. Even now, he coughs up a thick mucus that is becoming worse despite a variety of treatments. His sense of taste, which did not disappear as it has in some other covid-19 patients, has been altered."


You Might Have Breathing Difficulty (Normal O2 Level) 


Some long haulers find they have trouble breathing—but their blood oxygen level is normal, meaning they are taking in air. One had clear lung X-rays and was sent home by doctors who thought nothing was wrong, but in fact, COVID was causing costochondritis, which caused a constriction in his chest.


You Might Have a Dry Cough 

man face closeup with a sore throat, sick due to a virus, tired and overwhelmed

A signature sign of COVID, a dry cough is described as one that is unproductive—with no phlegm. It can last long after the virus has left your body. "It has a very consistent sound," Subinoy Das, MD an Ohio-based ear nose and throat physician, and medical director for the US Institute for Advanced Sinus Care & Research, tells Health. That's because "the airway is not constantly changing with the cough," says Dr. Das.

RELATED: 7 Tips You Must Follow to Avoid COVID, Say Doctors


You Might Have Shortness of Breath

Woman suffering an anxiety attack alone in the night

This is by far the most common pulmonary symptom of Long Covid. "Symptoms might take a long time to fade; a study posted on the preprint server medRxiv in August followed up on people who had been hospitalized, and found that even a month after being discharged, more than 70% were reporting shortness of breath and 13.5% were still using oxygen at home," reports Nature.


You Might Have All or Some Combination of the Above

Woman experiencing first Covid-19 symptoms throat pain breathing problems on sofa

Most long haulers have more than one symptom, and it can affect every system. If you experience any of these, contact a medical professional immediately, and again, if you think you might have been affected previously—in your lungs, brain, or body—don't miss the entire list of Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek