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New Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus

Long COVID can impact more than 1 in 3 patients, says new study.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

According to a new study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, even a mild COVID infection can lead to symptoms that may last a lifetime. "The research found that over 1 in 3 patients had one or more features of long-COVID recorded between 3 and 6 months after a diagnosis of COVID-19," the authors concluded."This illness affects patients with both severe and mild Covid-19," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said. "Part of the challenge is that patients with long COVID could have a range of different symptoms that can be persistent or can come and go." Read on for 9 signs you may have Long COVID—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Chest/Throat Pain

Woman touching her heart while sitting at the table in her big office.

Pain, in general, is a frequent complaint for Long Haulers, as you'll read about in future slides, but pain localized in the chest and throat area can be quite common, including chest tightness, costochondritis (an inflammation of the rib cage near the lungs), a sore throat—some of these pains can scarily resemble a heart attack. 


Abnormal Breathing

Woman having breath difficulties.

Abnormal breathing is unfortunately common among Long Haulers. Lucy Gahan, a clinical psychologist from the UK, told CNN: "I can only walk as far as the corner," she said. "In terms of running, I can't imagine when that will happen, if ever." She continued at the time: "I'm a clinical psychologist, and this is not anxiety," she said. "If doctors just say 'We don't know,' it's better than saying Covid symptoms only last two weeks."

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Abdominal Symptoms

Man hugging his belly and keeping eyes closed while lying on the couch at home

Nausea, diarrhea and vomiting are common symptoms of Long COVID, as is abdominal pain. "For two months, I was bloated and had zero appetite," one long hauler told us. He had his stomach x-rayed, and motility tests done, and was diagnosed with GERD and a hernia before doctors finally conceded it was Long COVID-related. "Some people don't immediately realize that their GI symptoms coincided with their COVID-19 infection, and they may not think the symptoms are related to COVID-19 because they're not respiratory in nature," said Dr. Jordan Shapiro, assistant professor of medicine – gastroenterology at Baylor.



Woman lying at bed.

Fatigue is one of the most frequently reported symptoms of Long COVID. One recent study says Long COVID may be "reminiscent of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). ME/CFS is a debilitating condition, often triggered by viral and bacterial infections, leading to years-long debilitating symptoms including profound fatigue, post exertional malaise, unrefreshing sleep, cognitive deficits, and orthostatic intolerance."

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Man sitting on bed holding his head.

"Some people have sleep disorders, you might be able to help with sleep medications or ease or cognitive behavioral therapy," Dr. Walter Koroshetz, Director of NINDS, said during a panel about "The COVID Long Haulers Facing the Cognitive and Physical Consequences." "With the tremendous anxiety that comes from having had COVID and wondering if you're going to die, or family members may have had it as well….Then you think you're over it, you're not over it. So the amount of post-traumatic stress disorder that folks have been describing or even depression is actually quite dramatic."



Woman in pain sitting on a bed.

"The long-COVID features involving pain were notable for 3 reasons," say the study's authors. "First, the overall incidence of pain (of any kind) recorded after COVID-19 was 34.2%, higher than any of the other features, and higher than after influenza (24.0%). Second, pain was the only feature that had a higher incidence in the 3- to 6-month period than in the 0- to 3-month period. Pain, therefore, appears to be a prominent and relatively persistent element of long-COVID. Third, headache and myalgia had characteristics that differed from the other pain categories: They were more common in women and in younger patients, and notably so in those who had been less acutely ill (as proxied by not requiring hospitalization or ITU admission, and without leukocytosis). In each case, this was in the opposite direction to the overall burden of long-COVID features. As such, post-COVID headache and myalgia may result from a different mechanism than the other long-COVID features."

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Sick young woman lying in the bed covered with blanket

"We know that headaches can occur at any time during the COVID infection. Actually, people are having headache as one of the first symptoms—it's been described as one of the top five symptoms people can have early on during their COVID infection, and people can continue to experience headaches long after their acute illnesses over," Dr. Valerie Klats, a neurologist of Hartford Healthcare's Headache Center, told Channel 8. "Headache is just one of the things that can happen—more likely to happen than the other more severe neurologic problems people can experience due to COVID….These are very disturbing symptoms and very painful and difficult to function, can wreck your life."


Cognitive Symptoms

Woman sitting on bed and holding head in her hands.

Long Haulers suffer from "brain fog," or what Dr. Fauci calls an "inability to concentrate." "Within each organ system, there's a span of severity that in neurology can range from headache to encephalopathy, to muscle weakness, to brain fog that looks like dementia, memory gaps, trouble finding words, inability to do simple math, such as calculating a tip," Elizabeth Cooney, a writer at Stat, said during that panel about "The COVID Long Haulers Facing the Cognitive and Physical Consequences." "People can suffer months, even if their infection was never serious enough to require hospitalization."

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Side view of a frowned young man suffering from pain in loin while sitting on white bedding

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has described "myalgia" as a frequent symptom of Long COVID. It's basically muscle aches and pains, and they can be anywhere on your body. 

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What to Do if You Think You Have Long COVID

Health visitor and a senior man during home visit

There is no cure yet for Long COVID. Until effective treatments have been discovered, talk to your medical professional, who will try to address your symptoms. "Symptomatic treatment—that's really important because that's what makes people feel better. So you have to parse out the symptoms and go after them one by one," says Koroshetz. There may also be a Post-COVID clinic near you. Studies like this new one may help. "The fact that the risk is higher after COVID-19 than after influenza suggests that their origin might, in part, directly involve infection with SARS-CoV-2 and is not just a general consequence of viral infection. This might help in developing effective treatments against long-COVID," say the authors. 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