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Signs You've Had COVID Damage, Says Dr. Fauci

You may have Long COVID, said Dr. Fauci.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

During a talk targeting worried parents, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke with the New York Times' science reporter Apoorva Mandavilli. The subject was keeping kids safe but Dr. Fauci described a syndrome that can affect anyone, young or old: COVID is not just a matter of life or death or "serious disease, but…there may be long lasting effects of COVID-19," he warned, "things that we refer to as long COVID, which means after you clear the virus and are apparently free of disease, there is a lingering of symptomatology." These symptoms can be devastating and never go away. Read on for four Long COVID symptoms Dr. Fauci said to watch for—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


You May Have "Fatigue"

Woman sleeping on the couch in the living room.

Dr. Fauci mentioned fatigue first, and it's the primary symptom of Long COVID. As with Chronic fatigue syndrome, or myalgic encephalomyelitis, this is no ordinary fatigue, like the kind you might feel after a long day at the office or a tough run. This is brain-draining fatigue that can strike after simple tasks, mild exertion or out of nowhere, and put you out of commission for hours or days.

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You May Have "Muscle Aches"

Woman experiencing back ache.

Dr. Fauci has called the muscle aches associated with Long COVID as "myalgia" and they can be transient, appearing all over your body. Doctors have heard frequent complains of back pain, leg pain and even pain in the chest that resembles a heart attack but is actually more likely inflamed tissue.

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You May Have "Sleep Disturbances"

tired woman

What irony: Long COVID makes you so tired you long to sleep, but also disrupts your sleep. Sufferers report neurological issues like nightmares, vivid dreams, insomnia, trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, or "it feels like I drank eight cups of coffee before bed." These disturbances can be exacerbated, or cause depression and anxiety, symptoms that often accompany Long COVID.

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You May Have Other Symptoms

Man sitting on bed holding his head.

Dr. Fauci said you may feel "things like that," indicating, off-handedly, that fatigue, muscle aches and sleep disturbances aren't the only symptoms. In fact, there are more than 200 reported symptoms—everything from fainting to chronic migraines to post-exertional malaise to costochondritis. A recent study in the Lancet said: "The effect on society, from the increased health-care burden and economic and productivity losses, is substantial. Long COVID is a modern medical challenge of the first order."

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Don't Think You are Immune to COVID

woman covered with plaid checking her body temperature while sitting in bed at her apartment

Whether you have Long COVID or not, you are not immune to COVID; doctors recommend you get vaccinated no matter your history with COVID. Also watch for these symptoms of COVID:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

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What to Do if You Feel You Have Long COVID

Doctor and senior woman wearing facemasks

There is no cure for Long COVID—yet. Doctors can currently only treat your symptoms, targeting your inflammation or special needs with existing medications, as researchers do the hard, long work to figure out what's causing this hardship. So explain to your medical professional exactly what you're feeling, along with any signs of COVID you had. 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