Sure Signs You Have Long COVID, According to Dr. Fauci
When we talk about coronavirus, we tend to talk in numbers—the number of cases (nearly 18 million so far), the number of deaths (more than 318,000 this year), the number of hospitalizations (ICUs in some cities have zero beds left). Left uncounted are those who got COVID—and are still alive but suffering brutally. These so-called "long-haulers" can't shake Post-COVID Syndrome, and have had their lives ruined, possibly forever. It's an "unexplainable symptom complex that seems to be consistent among them without any laboratory data to indicate why they may be feeling that way," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, told Mark Zuckerberg last month. Dr. Fauci listed the symptoms associated with this "long COVID"—read on to see if you have them, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
You May Feel Excessive Fatigue
Fauci says you may feel a profound fatigue—even if you were previously healthy. "Individuals who either had symptoms, stayed at home for a week or two, had, fever, aches, a little shortness of breath—or even people who've been in the hospital who, you know, had stays in the hospital—and come back who clear the virus from the body. So the virus is no longer there. Yet maybe 20, 25% of those people" may still feel the symptoms you're reading about, an unbearable fatigue being the most common.
You May Have Shortness of Breath
"…people who were good shape, athletes, have trouble climbing a flight of stairs," says Fauci. This trouble could be because of lung damage, lung issues or even costochondritis, an inflammation in the tissue surrounding the lungs.
You May Have Sleep Disturbances
Vivid nightmares, insomnia, waking in pain, sleep that doesn't leave you at all refreshed—these are just some of the side effects of Post-COVID Syndrome. You might "experience long-term adverse effects resembling CFS/ME"—that's chronic fatigue syndrome, or myalgic encephalomyelitis—"with "symptomatology such as persistent fatigue, diffuse myalgia, depressive symptoms, and non-restorative sleep," according to one study.
You May Have Dysautonomia
Dr. Fauci said you could get what's called "dysautonomia, where you get temperature fluctuations, where you feel flushed." It can get even more complicated than that. "Dysautonomia is an umbrella term used to describe several different medical conditions that cause a malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System," according to Dysautonomia International. "The Autonomic Nervous System controls the 'automatic' functions of the body that we do not consciously think about, such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, dilation and constriction of the pupils of the eye, kidney function, and temperature control. People living with various forms of dysautonomia have trouble regulating these systems, which can result in lightheadedness, fainting, unstable blood pressure, abnormal heart rates, malnutrition, and in severe cases, death."
You May Have Brain Fog
Brain fog is "another unfortunate word," says Dr. Fauci, who doesn't love the phrase "long haulers" either—"which really means they have difficulty concentrating and focusing—where you're looking at a computer screen and you just can't focus on what you're doing. That's the thing we're seeing now. And that could last from weeks to months."
Other Signs You Have Post-COVID Syndrome
Dr. Fauci rattled off the most common but the list of Post-COVID symptoms keeps growing as doctors—and patients—learn about the issue. Brain-splitting migraines, hair loss, random body aches, gastrointestinal issues and elevated Epstein Barr levels have all been reported, among others. Click here to see 98 Symptoms COVID Survivors Say They Still Have.
You Might Also Have Severe Organ Damage
In addition to Post-COVID Syndrome, "there's another kind of effect that is quite well-documented with laboratory data," says Dr. Fauci. "For example, if someone goes in the hospital with COVID, they get difficulties breathing, they get intubated and put on a ventilator. They get pneumonia when they recover, because they have such damage to their lungs or sometimes to their heart or to their kidney. It may be months and months, and maybe even longer—because we don't know yet because we've only been doing this for less than a year—where they have organ system dysfunction that is residual, maybe indefinitely."
What to Do if You Have Post-COVID Syndrome
Call your doctor if you have experienced any of these symptoms after having COVID, and discuss if specialists may be necessary. Just be prepared for them to not know exactly how to help. "We can treat the symptoms but not cure the disease," one neurologist told Eat This, Not That! Health.
How to Survive This Pandemic Without Getting Post-COVID Syndrome
Dr. Fauci has no idea how long Post-COVID Syndrome lasts. It may last forever. "The idea that you get infected, either get no symptoms or you die, and if you don't die, you're okay, that's just not true," he says. "There are going to be a lot of things that we're going to be following that people are going to have trouble even after they recover."
All the more reason to avoid catching COVID in the first place. Wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, 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.