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Dr. Fauci Warns of "Worrying" COVID Symptoms

Here’s what Dr. Fauci wants you to know about long COVID.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned about long COVID in a press briefing on February 16, saying there are several concerning symptoms people need to be aware of. "Certainly long COVID is something that we take very seriously. We're studying it quite intensively," Dr. Fauci said. How do you know if you're developing this debilitating illness, which can happen after even a mild COVID infection? Here's what he wants you to know about long COVID symptoms. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Long COVID Symptoms Are Not Always Obvious

Nurse holding test tube with blood for 2019-nCoV.

According to Dr. Fauci, symptoms of long COVID are not always easy to pin down—one patient may have fatigue and myalgia (pains), another my have ongoing lung issues and shortness of breath. "Now over the last year we know that you don't necessarily have to be hospitalized to get long COVID, that it ranges from people who are mildly to moderately symptomatic to individuals who are actually requiring hospitalization," Dr. Fauci says.

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What Are the Symptoms of Long Covid?

Man having a chest pain and wearing a protection mask.

Long COVID symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, migraines, chest discomfort, brain fog, dizziness, vomiting, and more usually appear four to eight weeks after the initial infection has passed. "Because there are so many people infected with Omicron, we expect those cases, unfortunately, will lead to more cases of long COVID," says Jason Maley, director of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's long-COVID clinic. "I don't think there's anything that has been seen about the virus itself, the Omicron variant, to say that it won't cause long COVID." Here's the CDC's list of symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities (also known as post-exertional malaise)
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as "brain fog")
  • Cough
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Pins-and-needles feeling
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleep problems
  • Fever
  • Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness)
  • Rash
  • Mood changes
  • Change in smell or taste
  • Changes in menstrual period cycles

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Long COVID May Be Linked to Type 2 Diabetes

Senior woman checking her blood glucose level.

There is growing evidence that COVID-19 might either cause diabetes or make it worse. "There are a number of factors that seem to be associated in recent studies with long COVID, ranging from things like type two diabetes to viral load… as well as things like autoantibodies. We don't really understand very much, but we're learning literally on a week by week, month by month basis," Dr. Fauci says. 

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How To Protect Against Long COVID

Doctors wearing face masks transporting patient in hospital bed. medicine, health and healthcare services during coronavirus covid 19 pandemic.

Dr. Fauci stressed how important it was to prevent hospitals from being overloaded with COVID-19 patients, and that there would be an emphasis on protecting long COVID from spreading. "We certainly want to protect against symptomatic infection. We'd like to do that, and we don't take lightly long COVID. So that has to be put into the equation of what our ultimate goals are. But clearly the thing that is most important is keeping people out of the hospitals for most of the reasons… that not only relate to the person with COVID-19, but the impact that it has on the rest of society, outside of the context of COVID."

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Wear a Mask to Protect Against Long COVID

Business woman in suit wearing surgical protect mask standing in a crowd of walking people.

Wearing a mask is still one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of COVID-19, and should continue to be worn in crowded indoor areas. "It is important for everyone to understand the very basic level of why they should wear a mask," says Megan Srinivas, MD, MPH, infectious diseases specialist and translational health policy research fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill."A lot of the reasons people aren't wearing it is because of the mixed messaging we're getting from our state, local and national leaders. The most important thing that we can get across for our patients is clearing that misconception and those falsehoods and just telling them how masks are effective and that they in fact are safe."

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Female Doctor hands holding vaccine bottle and syringe.

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