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COVID Symptoms That Scare Us, Say Physicians

Don’t ignore these symptoms of COVID-19.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

With COVID-19 cases (thankfully) on a downward trend across the U.S., there is still concern, with virus symptoms causing alarm for doctors and scientists. "Really, nothing is off the table when it comes to COVID. I always get texts from people asking if something they're experiencing is normal. Well, there's nothing that's truly abnormal when it comes to COVID — literally almost anything goes and we don't exactly know why," says pulmonary and critical care physician Joseph Khabbaza, MD. Here are five COVID-19 symptoms doctors are worried about. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Long-Term Breathing Issues and Fatigue

Sick woman feeling chest pain and wearing face mask in a lobby at medical clinic.

Doctors are concerned about patients complaining of breathing issues long after having recovered from COVID-19. "The virus should not be taken lightly, it's causing a lot of damage in multiple different organ systems. And so, it's not surprising that people have symptoms that persist for extended periods," says Dr. Avindra Nath, Clinical Director of the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "We're going to try to figure out how much of that may be coming from a deranged immune system and how much of that may be coming through persistent viral infection."


Mental Health Issues

Thoughtful girl sitting on sill embracing knees looking at window, sad depressed teenager spending time alone at home, young upset pensive woman feeling lonely or frustrated thinking about problems

Many physicians are noticing the uptick in mental health issues connected to the COVID-19 pandemic. "The pandemic has produced a petri dish of psychological factors that may lead to emotional health problems: anxiety, brain fog, depression, and PTSD," says Luana Marques, a psychologist and professor at Harvard Medical School. 


Brain Shrinkage

Radiologist looking at the MRI scan images.

Recent studies show that even mild cases of COVID-19 can cause brain shrinkage and memory loss. "It is brain damage, but it is possible that it is reversible," says Gwenaëlle Douaud, associate professor at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at Oxford. "But it is still relatively scary because it was in mildly infected people."

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An old man touches his head. Headache. Alzheimer's disease

"Hallucinations and confusion are commonly experienced during all sorts of severe illnesses," says Dr. Khabbaza. "When you have a kind of stressor like COVID-19 in the body, you're more likely to be confused, especially if you are elderly. This symptom is very common with older people as the body is trying to fight off an infection. COVID patients in the ICU sometimes experience a really bad delirium, worse than it seems with other patients who are critically ill. This delirium can worsen during a hospital stay when you're not sleeping normally or if you're in pain. Some medications that are used to keep patients comfortable on ventilators can even intensify delirium. With COVID-19, as someone gets worse, the type of brain manifestation that they experience can get worse as well. This can be due to a combination of blood flow and inflammation in the body or potentially alterations in blood flow at the microvascular level that cause these reactions."

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Blood Clots

woman hands holding and massage her calf, suffering from calf pain

Concerning studies show that ​​up to 30 percent of people with severe cases of COVID-19 experience blood clotting. "The risk of blood clots are anywhere from about three- to sixfold or greater, more than we're used to seeing," says clot specialist Alex Spyropoulos, M.D. "It has us all in the academic community a little bit befuddled, because it's one of the most aggressive diseases with respect to blood clots that we've ever seen."

RELATED: Doctors Warn About These COVID Symptoms


How to Stay Safe Out There

Brunette woman wearing a KN95 FPP2 mask.

Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, 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.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan