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Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID, Say COVID Experts

If you’ve experienced these symptoms, you may be a Long Hauler.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Although many people get coronavirus and may not even know it, others can experience mild symptoms—and then get worse. Potentially for life. They are called Long Haulers and they have Long COVID. "Three quarters of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had at least one ongoing symptom 6 months after their acute illness," say the authors of a new presentation on the CDC website, written by clinicians on the front lines. And furthermore, many who weren't hospitalized can remain ill too. Keep reading to discover the most common symptoms of what's being called Long COVID—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus


You Will Most Likely Have Fatigue


"Persons with long COVID often present reporting persistent severe fatigue," says Alfonso C Hernandez-Romieu, MD, MPH, LCDR, U.S. Public Health Service, Late Sequelae Unit, Clinical Team, COVID-19 Response, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the presentation. "The most comprehensive longitudinal data is from a recently published Chinese cohort. Among 1,733 patients, 3/4 of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have at least one ongoing symptom six months after their acute illness, with 63% endorsing fatigue and muscle weakness."


You May Have Brain Fog

Woman hands on his head felling headache dizzy sense of spinning dizziness with motion

Brain fog is "defined as mild subjective cognitive impairment," says Dr. Hernandez-Romieu. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has called this an "inability to concentrate." You might also feel memory loss, confusion and a "foggy" feeling.


You May Have Headaches

Close up Portrait of young woman with headache

These can feel like a jackhammer and not stop. And unfortunately: "There aren't any specific treatments we have for post-COVID neurologic symptoms," Dr. Felicia Chow, MD, associate professor of neurology and medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, tells Neurology Today. "It's symptomatic management of the issues they're having, whether that's headache or dizziness or cognitive complaints."


You May Have Sleeping Difficulties 


26% of those in the study had difficulty sleeping. Insomnia, vivid dreams (or nightmares) and nighttime hallucinations have all been reported by long haulers. "The virus is capable of altering the delicate processes within our nervous system, in many cases in unpredictable ways, sometimes creating long-term symptoms," says the Atlantic. "Better appreciating the ties between immunity and the nervous system could be central to understanding COVID-19—and to preventing it."


You May Have Dyspnea

in pain touching chest respiratory symptoms fever, coughing, body aches

26% of those in the study had dyspnea. "Few sensations are as frightening as not being able to get enough air," reports the Mayo Clinic. "Shortness of breath — known medically as dyspnea — is often described as an intense tightening in the chest, air hunger, difficulty breathing, breathlessness or a feeling of suffocation."


You May Have Anxiety or Depression

Melancholy woman resting at the terrace

23% in the study suffered anxiety or depression. "A lot of these patients have depression, anxiety or PTSD from their experience with COVID," said Dr. Allison P. Navis, MD, assistant professor in the division of neuro-infectious diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in Neurology Today. "I try to address the mental health aspects, to let patients know it's okay if they're dealing with that." Dr. Ross Zafonte, DO, chair of the Harvard Medical School department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Spaulding, told the journal: "Some of these patients can have an affective issue that could be making things worse. Depression or PTSD can have a real impact on their other symptoms. What I've noticed is that these post-COVID symptoms are really, really multi-factorial."


You May Have Hair Loss

losing hair

Actress Alyssa Milano is perhaps the most notable long hauler who lost her hair after contracting COVID. "Thought I'd show you what #Covid19 does to your hair," Milano captioned a video, of her hair loss. "Please take this seriously. #WearADamnMask #LongHauler."


You May Have a Smell Disorder

Woman Trying to Sense Smell of a Lemon

As you likely know, COVID can cause one to lose their sense of taste or smell. For some patients, these senses never come back. According to Advisory Board: "Narly 25% of Covid-19 patients who reported losing their sense of smell said they did not regain their olfactory function even 60 days after they noticed it was gone, according to a large prospective study in the Journal of Internal Medicine—a potentially pervasive loss that providers believe could affect patients' nutrition and mental health."


You May Have Palpitations

mature man having heart attack at home

"As Chimére Smith clicked on the link to join the COVID-19 Slack support group, she could feel her body shaking. Not because of an internal buzzing sensation reported by some people struggling with the illness — though she is certainly familiar with that," reported the Washington Post. "Smith, a 38-year-old Baltimore middle school teacher, fell ill in March with symptoms progressing rapidly from a sore throat to crushing fatigue to heart palpitations. Still dealing with symptoms several weeks in, she was confused and afraid but alive — though that, it seemed, could change at any moment."

RELATED: Simple Ways to Avoid a Heart Attack, According to Doctors


You May Have Joint Pain

Senior woman suffering from pain in hand at home.

"Many of the symptoms of the coronavirus mimic the typical symptoms of a viral infection or flu syndrome," says Dr. Stuart J. Fischer in OrthoInfo. "One of these symptoms may be muscle aches or myalgias. You may get pain in your arms, legs, or back that develops spontaneously with no injury. Typically, in a coronavirus infection, the pain is in muscles rather than in joints. But if you have an arthritic joint in your arm or leg, the virus may exaggerate the symptoms. The pain may be severe and limiting."


You May Have Neurological Disorders

woman in a couch with headache and a hand on forehead

"Another important finding among patients attending the post-acute COVID clinic in France was that more than 1/4 developed new neurological signs and symptoms after their acute COVID-19 illness," says Dr. Hernandez-Romieu. "These included but were not limited to cognitive dysfunction, balanced disorders, paresthesia, and swallowing and speech disorders."


You May Have Other Disabilities

CT scan of the brain of a patient with intracranial hemorrhage

"SARS-CoV-2 infection can also lead to specific complications like stroke, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and multisystem Inflammatory disorder which can cause prolonged symptoms and disability," says Dr. Hernandez-Romieu.

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


You May Have Had No or Only Mild Symptoms to Start

Man sneezing into his elbow.

"Prolonged symptoms are common in patients with mild COVID-19 disease not requiring hospitalization," says Dr. Hernandez-Romieu. "In three studies that focused on people who were not hospitalized for COVID-19 in a post-acute COVID clinic in France, and telephone surveys of patients in the Faroe Islands in Switzerland, anywhere from 35% to 54% of patients had persistent symptoms after two to four months. Half to 3/4 of patients attending the post-acute COVID clinic in France endorsed new symptoms not initially present or symptoms that reappeared after initial resolution."


What to Do If You Feel These Symptoms

woman Doctor in green uniform wear eyeglasses and surgical mask talking, consulting and giving advice to Elderly female patient at the hospital

If you experience these symptoms, contact a medical professional immediately. There is no cure for Long COVID but specialists can potentially alleviate your symptoms with existing medications until there is one. Long COVID support groups like Body Politic can also be extremely useful. 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.

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