Sure Signs You've Already Had a COVID Infection
Coronavirus isn't just a life or death thing—it can debilitate you for months, even years, even after a mild case, by causing "Long COVID" or Post-Acute COVID Syndrome. Those who have this are called Long Haulers. "By definition," says Dr. Paul Bolin Jr., chair of internal medicine at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, "it is persistent symptoms beyond four weeks of onset of symptoms." Who can get it? Anyone. "The CDC just released a data set thinking that around 30% of all people who get COVID will have some long COVID symptoms that can be as mild as prolonged troubles with smell and taste to profound cardiovascular disability," said the doctor. "I've seen as high as 45% of patients who end up at the post-acute COVID center."
As for symptoms: "It spans the whole spectrum — there's people who have had nothing more than loss of taste to people who were in the ICU for a month," Bolin added. So what are the symptoms you should watch for? He appeared on the Talk Like a Pirate podcast; read on for the ones Bolin listed—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
"Persistence of Fatigue"
Chronic fatigue is a hallmark of Long COVID. Experts have hypothesized that there are still remnants of the virus in your body and your immune system is still fighting it off; others believes inflammation—particularly vascular inflammation—is to blame. As those who have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome—which Long COVID can resemble—know, the reasons "why" have not yet been figured out, which makes a "cure" feel a long way down the road.
"Shortness of Breath"
Naturally, since COVID can be a respiratory illness, it can result in shortness of breath. For Long Haulers, this shortness of breath may last and last. This can be because of damage to your lungs. This can also be due to inflammation in your chest area; some folks have costochondritis, an inflammation of the rib cartilage, that can result in shortness of breath.
"Unusual Pain Syndromes"
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has warned of "myalgia"—pains that could appear anywhere. Long haulers have reported, as we said, costochondritis, but also back pain, muscle pain, joint pain and crippling headaches and migraines. These may be triggered by foods, smells or exertion or can appear seemingly out of nowhere.
"Loss of Smell or Taste for Long Periods of Time"
You may have heard that a signature symptom of a COVID infection is a sudden loss of smell or taste. It usually comes back. If it doesn't come back after four weeks, you may have Long COVID. Some people who caught COVID during the beginning of the pandemic still do not have their sense of taste or smell. Or they may smell weird smells.
"Profound Cardiovascular Disability"
"I've seen people that are profoundly [ill], from a cardiopulmonary standpoint to say unable to walk literally almost across the room. And that was not the case before they were sick," said Dr. Bolin.
"Lack of Mental Cognitive—Cognitive Fog"
Doctors are calling lack of concentration and memory loss "brain fog." "There have been studies that have documented significant decreases in cognition after COVID," said Dr. Bolin. It can affect "your ability to process information." He mentioned "the link between subsequent development of neurologic syndromes in the aftermath of having the flu in 1918. And so one of their concerns is, are we going to repeat that?"
One study Dr. Bolin mentioned showed that "long-term COVID patients …. are now making auto-antibodies, almost like somebody with Lupus that makes antibodies that destroys the body. They are now making antibodies against the ACE two receptors."
"Anxiety" and Depression
"The psychological impact is the thing that has impressed me the most," said the doctor. "I think a lot of people have been told, well, you're really not sick. Well, come on, you can go. And all that, I think that's happened a lot. And I think so a lot of people began to believe that it's all in their head. I can't tell you how many people, when I go in and tell them, this is something real, this is not just in your head. It's like an incredible psychological relief for them." "So I worry about that," he continued.
What to Do if You Think You Have Long COVID
Currently, there is no cure for Long COVID, and in fact, your doctor may be stumped about how to treat it. Expect medical professionals to try to treat your symptoms. The National Institutes of Health has received some $1.15 billion in funding over four years from Congress to help study this issue, and some of that money has gone to NYU Langone. And to stay safe out there, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.