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If You Feel This Tired, It Could Be Something Serious

Long COVID fatigue is no joke.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Long COVID is a scary, sometimes debilitating condition estimated to have affected up to 23 million Americans and possibly more. "If you have long COVID symptoms, you should seek care," says Devang Sanghavi, MD. "As we have seen in a lot of these surveys and studies about post-COVID syndrome is that usually this condition doesn't come with just one symptom—there's a cluster of symptoms." Here are signs you could be dealing with a serious long COVID issue—specifically, COVID fatigue. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Fatigue Is Most Common Symptom of Long COVID


Experts are discovering chronic fatigue is widespread among long COVID patients. "Early in the pandemic, we realized some patients had a cluster of debilitating symptoms that dragged on for months, which we now call long COVID," says Natasha Yates, Assistant Professor, General Practice, Bond University. "Some 85% of long COVID patients experience fatigue, making it one of the most common long COVID symptoms."


Take Your Time Recovering

Happy female physiotherapist giving leg massage to active senior woman in sports center

Don't exercise too hard as you're recovering from COVID, experts warn. "A gradual return to exercise may help your recovery, but you may need some support about how to manage or avoid fatigue afterwards," says Dr. Yates. "Some therapists – occupational therapists, physiotherapists and exercise physiologists – specialize in this. So ask your GP for a recommendation."


Fatigue Often Appears With Other Symptoms

woman trying to sense smell of half fresh orange, has symptoms of Covid-19

Long COVID fatigue can sometimes be the result of a combination of symptoms, doctors say. "Fatigue, depression, loss of sense of smell, brain fog and chest pain are the five most common symptoms I see," said Christian Sandrock, infectious diseases expert and the director of critical care at UC Davis Medical Center. "Shortness of breath and anxiety round it out. It's a complex disease. We are still figuring it out more than a year after opening the clinic."

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Women Are More Likely To Develop Long COVID

sick woman drinking tea

Studies show that women are more likely to experience long COVID symptoms such as fatigue. "We know that there are conditions like autoimmune diseases that are more likely to be had by female patients," says Mark Avdalovic, MD, a specialist in pulmonary and critical care medicine. "There may be a hormonal predisposition for certain symptoms, whether it's an autoimmune process or something related to a chronic inflammatory state. I think this is an opportunity for research."

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Vaccines and Boosters Can Make a Difference

Woman in medical protective mask getting injection in arm vaccination.

"We have seen with the Omicron variant the increase in the number of breakthrough cases with the two doses of mRNA and one dose of J&J vaccine," says Dr. Sanghavi. "This breakthrough infection may be from waning immunity or mutating virus. This makes the booster vaccine more important. Even in patients who are boosted, there is risk of breakthrough infection. The clear advantage in these booster breakthrough cases is the disease is mild and there is a decreased need for hospitalization. The other long-term benefit and important difference between booster breakthrough infection as compared to unvaccinated infection is that there is a decreased risk of long COVID, just like the actual disease. But in the case that someone does develop long COVID, their symptoms are very mild."


How to Stay Safe Out There


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