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Top 5 Signs You've Already Had COVID, According to Report

The most common “long hauler” symptoms may be signs you’ve had the coronavirus.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

You felt off last week and still feel "not yourself" and so may wonder: Was it COVID? The most accepted way to tell if you've had coronavirus is to get an antibody test, even if they aren't 100% correct. "Antibody testing does not diagnose COVID-19, but these tests can determine if a patient may have antibodies against the virus that causes it," says Cedars-Sinai. Another sign you may have had COVID is if you're suffering from Post-COVID Syndrome, which is leaving an estimated 10% or more of COVID patients—dubbed "long haulers"—with symptoms long after the virus leaves the body. According to a survey of "long-haulers" conducted by an Indiana University School of Medicine researcher and the grassroots support group Survivor Corps, released earlier this year, these are the top five most common symptoms. Read on to see them ranked, ending with the very most common, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss the full list of Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus


You Might Have an Inability to Exercise or Be Active

Man tired after excercise.

916 of those surveyed reported this

Those who have Post-COVID Syndrome may have lung scarring or a heart issue, which makes exercise impossible or dangerous. Many Post-COVID sufferers also experience a soul-sucking fatigue (which will come up later in this piece) and what's called "post-exertional malaise." "Post-exertional malaise (PEM) is the worsening of symptoms following even minor physical or mental exertion, with symptoms typically worsening 12 to 48 hours after activity and lasting for days or even weeks," reports the CDC. In other words, you might be able to move around one day, but you "pay for it"—with a migraine, or fatigue, or muscle pains—the day after.


You Might Have Difficulty Concentrating or Focusing

Woman in kitchen

924 of those surveyed reported this

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has called this "brain fog." A new study in Nature Neuroscience shows the virus crosses "the blood-brain barrier." "We know that when you have the COVID infection you have trouble breathing and that's because there's infection in your lung," said lead study author William A. Banks, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine and a Puget Sound Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, "but an additional explanation is that the virus enters the respiratory centers of the brain and causes problems there as well."


You Might Suffer Shortness of Breath or Difficulty Breathing


1,020 of those surveyed reported this

You may have trouble climbing a flight of stairs, or get winded doing the dishes—or you may have something worse. Some "may experience complications such as pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)," reports Virtua Health. "ARDS occurs when fluid fills the lungs and prevents normal breathing, reducing the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream and depriving organs of oxygen. Patients who experience severe symptoms usually require treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU). Although some patients may be able to receive respiratory support using high-flow oxygen, patients with ARDS typically need to be on a ventilator for days or weeks to help them breathe."

RELATED: COVID Symptoms Usually Appear in This Order, Study Finds


You Might Have Muscle or Body Aches

woman in pain sitting

1,046 of those surveyed reported this

Dr. Fauci has said "myalgia" is a common side effect—and it was in fact the #2 most common symptom of the long-haulers surveyed. Muscle pain can affect "a small area or your whole body, ranging from mild to excruciating," reports the Mayo Clinic. "Although most muscle aches and pains go away on their own within a short time, sometimes muscle pain can linger for months. Muscle pain can develop almost anywhere in your body, including your neck, back, legs and even your hands."


You are Most Likely to Have Fatigue

Woman experiencing a bad headache

1,567 of those surveyed reported this

Dr. Fauci said Post-COVID Syndrome can resemble Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or myalgic encephalomyelitis, the hallmark symptom of which is—you guessed it—a profound fatigue. Why the similarities? "Research is underway to test several theories. People with ME/CFS, and possibly the post-COVID long haulers, may have an ongoing low level of inflammation in the brain, or decreased blood flow to the brain, or an autoimmune condition in which the body makes antibodies that attack the brain, or several of these abnormalities," reports Harvard Health


What to Do If You Experience These Symptoms

Mature man with bad headache at home

In addition to the ones you've just read about, the CDC also lists:

  • Cough
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Intermittent fever
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)

…as symptoms of Post-COVID Syndrome. Call your medical professional if you experience any of them, and remember: "The best way to prevent these long-term complications is to prevent COVID-19," says the CDC. "The best strategies for preventing COVID-19 infection in youth and adults are to wear a mask in public places, stay at least 6 feet away from other people, frequently wash your hands, and avoid crowds and confined or poorly ventilated spaces." 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