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Doctors Warn About These COVID Symptoms

Some symptoms of COVID are significantly worse than others.

With many states and cities dropping their mask mandates and COVID-19 cases falling across the U.S., it's easy to forget people are still dealing with highly concerning symptoms of the virus—long after having supposedly recovered from it. "There will be a significant influx of patients with lingering 'long covid' illness, both physical and emotional, and GPs [doctors] must have the necessary resources and support to care for patients and help them come to terms with and readjust to the aftermath," says Martin Marshall CBE, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners. 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.


Brain Damage

Doctor examines MRI scan of head, neck and brain of patient

New research shows that even mild COVID may be linked to brain damage—scans show that the excess loss of brain volume is equivalent to a year's aging. "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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Long-Term Loss of Taste and Smell

Portrait of young woman smelling a fresh and sweet nectarine

A study published in Cell discovered the mechanism by which COVID-19 impacted smell and taste, a serious ongoing symptom for many people. "This study provides the most definitive clinical data available to date that SARS-CoV-2 directly or indirectly damages nerves and that this, in turn, can have systemic effects, including changes in the brain," says Dr. Steven Deeks, University of California, San Francisco. "It contributes to an emerging theme that nerve damage was common during the first few waves of the pandemic."

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Persistent Headache

man massaging nose bridge, taking glasses off, having blurry vision or dizziness

A painful, constant headache that doesn't seem to get better is a worrying symptom of COVID-19. "They're left after the recovery with a new onset headache that doesn't remit," says Emad Estemalik, MD. "A patient will tell you they have a 24/7 baseline of headaches or pain that gets worse from time to time. This tends to be a very, very challenging headache to treat or manage. Clinical judgment is very important to make the right determination."

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Hearing Loss

Older woman or female pensioner with a hearing problem make a hearing test and may need a hearing aid, in the foreground is a model of a human ear

A number of people are reporting issues with their hearing after having COVID-19. "If you have a sudden change to your hearing loss, it's really important to have it assessed correctly—quickly — because there is a window to potentially improve it," says Sarah Sydlowski, AuD, PhD, MBA. "Your audiologist can refer you to an ENT physician who may prescribe steroids, which are not always effective, but the sooner we can manage it, the better the chances that we might be able to restore that sudden change. Most of the time, an inner ear hearing loss that's caused by circulatory problems, noise, aging or certain medications is usually permanent. But there is a small sub-segment of cases where we might be able to improve it."

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COVID-Related Psychosis

The depressed woman sitting alone on the floor in the dark room background

Doctors are showing concern about the number of patients displaying signs of COVID-enduced psychosis. "The kinds of things we're seeing really reflect profound changes in how brain circuitry is working," says Dr. Robert Shulman, a psychiatrist with Rush University Medical Center. "If mood circuits are affected, you can develop depressive disorders or anxiety circuits, you may see panic and anxiety… We've even seen severe depressions with psychotic features. What is really concerning is when we see the patient who does not have any prior history, no history of illness in the family, who presents with a marked change in behavior that is traceable, directly timewise, to having the infection starting within weeks."

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Close up doctor's hand injecting for vaccination in the shoulder woman patient

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.

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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