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7 Signs of Long COVID, Says Dr. Fauci

The illness may last a lifetime. All doctors know for sure is, you don't want it.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The pain of coronavirus doesn't end for some people who get even a mild case. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned recently of "somewhat unique post COVID-19 conditions. And we can generally segregate them into two separate buckets," he said. "One"—well, one is obvious—"in which there's residual organ system dysfunction that is directly explainable by organ system damage. However, there are now a number of individuals—anywhere from 10 to up to 30%—who, following clearance of the virus and supposed, essentially termination of the disease, these individuals have the signs and symptoms that are not completely explainable by a readily apparent pathogenic process. We refer to this as 'Long COVID' and the symptoms are somewhat consistent." What are the main symptoms? Fauci gave the The John Snow Society Annual Pumphandle Lecture, entitled "COVID-19: Lessons Learned and Remaining Challenges," and it was just put online yesterday. Read on for the symptoms he mentioned—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


"Extreme Fatigue, Sometimes Incapacitating"

Tired woman lying in bed can't sleep late at night with insomnia

An "extreme, sometimes incapacting" fatigue has been haunting Long Haulers—as those who have Long COVID are known. This doesn't just mean they get a little sleepy after a hard day's work. For some people, many of whom were perfectly healthy before the pandemic, even simple tasks like household chores can lead their body to feel like it's unable to function. Resting helps—but since sleep difficulties also often accompany Long COVID, these sufferers may never feel truly at peace.

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Unexplained Shortness of Breath


Certainly you'd expect COVID—a respiratory illness—to cause lung damage.  And as Dr. Fauci said, organ system dysfunction leads, via a straight line, to lung damage. But Long Haulers also sometimes have an unexplained shortness of breath. This can lead to a number of other symptoms, especially anxiety if you feel you cannot breathe or fear you may be suffering a heart attack.

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Woman having chest pain and coughing while lying down on sofa at home.

"Dysautonomia refers to a group of medical conditions caused by problems with the autonomic nervous system (ANS)," says the Cleveland Clinic. "This part of your nervous system controls involuntary body functions like your heartbeat, breathing and digestion. When the ANS doesn't work as it should, it can cause heart and blood pressure problems, trouble breathing and loss of bladder control."

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man is putting his hand to the chest

"Tachycardia refers to a heart rate that's too fast. How that's defined may depend on your age and physical condition. Generally speaking, for adults, a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute (BPM) is considered too fast," says the American Heart Association.

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Depression and Anxiety

Man sitting on bed holding his head.

Needless to say, with your "old life" seemingly over and an unexplained COVID illness ruining your every moment, or giving you constant aches and pains, those with Long COVID can develop anxiety or depression. Of course there may be a biological reason for this also, as some Long COVID sufferers have reported the sickness messes with the serotonin in their brains, which can often cause migraines.

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Brain Fog

Vertigo illness concept. Man hands on his head felling headache dizzy sense of spinning dizziness,a problem with the inner ear, brain, or sensory nerve pathway.

Dr. Fauci warned of "a condition referred to as brain fog, which means a very curious inability to focus or concentrate, particularly when trying to follow something on a screen on a computer." For some, it can resemble Alzheimer's. Those who have myalgic encephalomyelitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, know this all too well.

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Temperature Dysregulation

Man sitting on the bed wrapped in a blanket feeling sick while girl hugging him and trying to help him.

Too hot? Too cold? Since COVID can alter your immune response and nervous system, Long Haulers sometimes have wildly divergent temperatures. If you have a temperature of 100.4, by the way, it's considered a fever.

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Will Long COVID Last for Longer Than a Year? Maybe a Lifetime?

Healthcare worker at home visit

"We don't know the answer to that, but we know it's at least measured in months because we have now started a study, a multi NIH institutes study, looking at large cohorts of people who have both been infected and uninfected as a control to take a look at this constellation of signs and symptoms," said Dr. Fauci. "You can explain residual organ system damage, but what is completely inexplicable from a pathogenic standpoint is when you have no abnormal laboratory data and someone is incapacitated by fatigue, you know, very, very similar and reminiscent of the myalgic encephalomyelitis, chronic fatigue syndrome. 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.

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