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5 Sure Signs There's COVID in Your Lungs

There are short- and long-term symptoms everyone needs to know.

There are many general symptoms of COVID-19 as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—fever, shortness of breath, loss of sense of smell or taste, cough, and fatigue included. But how do you know if the virus is wreaking havoc on your respiratory system? In a paper published by Johns Hopkins Medicine, Panagis Galiatsatos, MD, MHS, an expert in lung disease, described exactly how the virus can damage your lungs—in both the short and long-term—and some of the signs and symptoms to look out for. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus


You Are Experiencing Shortness of Breath

Woman having breath difficulties in the living room - Image

Shortness of breath is one of the trademark symptoms of COVID-19 and generally occurs when fluid starts filling the lungs making it harder to breathe. It is also a symptom of pneumonia, explains Dr. Galiatsatos. "In pneumonia, the lungs become filled with fluid and inflamed, leading to breathing difficulties," he writes. "The pneumonia that COVID-19 causes tends to take hold in both lungs. Air sacs in the lungs fill with fluid, limiting their ability to take in oxygen."


You Can't Stop Coughing


Another common sign that COVID is in your lungs is the dry cough associated with COVID. Along with shortness of breath, it can also signify pneumonia, he explains. 


You Are Struggling to Breathe

Woman suffering an anxiety attack alone in the night

Struggling to breathe is a more severe symptom of COVID-related lung damage. "As COVID-19 pneumonia progresses, more of the air sacs become filled with fluid leaking from the tiny blood vessels in the lungs. Eventually, shortness of breath sets in, and can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a form of lung failure. Patients with ARDS are often unable to breath on their own and may require ventilator support to help circulate oxygen in the body," Dr. Galiatsatos writes. "Whether it occurs at home or at the hospital, ARDS can be fatal. People who survive ARDS and recover from COVID-19 may have lasting pulmonary scarring."


Your Other Organs Start to Fail

Patients lying on hospital bed with mask, looking at lung x-ray film during doctor reading result and advice a treatment

Sepsis is one of the more fatal conditions that can arise when COVID-19 infects the lung, occurring when the infection gets into the bloodstream and starts damaging tissue throughout the body. "Lungs, heart and other body systems work together like instruments in an orchestra," Galiatsatos says. "In sepsis, the cooperation between the organs falls apart. Entire organ systems can start to shut down, one after another, including the lungs and heart." In cases where a patient survives sepsis, their lungs may be permanently damaged. 


Other Infections Start Occurring

These COVID Symptoms Will Make Your Daily Life Impossible, Says Study

During a COVID-19 infection, the immune system is working on overdrive to fight it. "This can leave the body more vulnerable to infection with another bacterium or virus on top of the COVID-19 — a superinfection," he writes. "More infection can result in additional lung damage."

RELATED: If You Feel This, You May Have Already Had COVID, Says Dr. Fauci


What Do Do If You Feel These Symptoms


"If you have a fever, cough or other symptoms, you might have COVID-19," says the CDC. "Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home. If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider" and, importantly, they warn: "If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), get emergency medical care immediately." And to protect your life and the lives of others, and not catch COVID in the first place, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah