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Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID, Warns Mayo Clinic

A worrying number of people suffer from “post-acute COVID syndrome or PACS,” a sign you have had COVID.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek
stressed out woman

One day, the coronavirus pandemic will be behind us, but it may live forever for sufferers of "post-acute COVID syndrome or PACS"—also called Long COVID and its sufferers long haulers. They got the virus, sometimes a very mild case, and have been left with debilitating symptoms. Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn, a Mayo Clinic preventive, occupational and aerospace medicine specialist, leads the COVID Activity Rehabilitation Program, and answered some questions from the Mayo Clinic News Network about this terrible illness. Read on for the most common symptoms of this post-COVID syndrome—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus


You May Feel Extreme Fatigue

Depressed young woman sitting on floor at home

"I would say that the most defining feature that we see, for these patients, is fatigue," says Dr. Vanichkachorn. "And not just any fatigue, but a profound fatigue. So, for example, folks will say: 'I take a four to five hour nap after doing something as simple as doing the laundry or taking a one block walk.' It's just amazing how wiped out folks can feel with just a little bit of activity." Dr. Anthony Fauci has compared PACS to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS), whose defining characteristics are fatigue and "brain fog," or an inability to concentrate.


You May Feel Shortness of Breath

Woman experiencing first Covid-19 symptoms throat pain breathing problems on sofa

"I would say that the second symptom that we see quite a bit is shortness of breath, which would make sense," says Dr. Vanichkachorn. "We know that COVID can cause long-term changes in the lungs, like lung diseases and so forth, and that can lead to long-term dyspnea. So that pops up quite frequently."


You May Have Headaches or Other Neurological Symptoms

Stressed unhappy woman touching forehead, suffering from strong headache or chronic migraine

"We also see headaches, believe it or not," says Dr. Vanichkachorn. "In about 30% of folks will complain of some sort of neurological long-term complaint, whether it be a headache or dizziness or weakness. But headaches seem to be definitely a part of this picture."


You May Feel Any of These Other Symptoms


Says the Mayo Clinic: "The most common signs and symptoms that linger over time include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain

Other long-term signs and symptoms may include:

  • Muscle pain or headache
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Memory, concentration or sleep problems
  • Rash or hair loss."


Who Can Get Post-Acute COVID Syndrome?

Woman wearing surgical mask on face protective for spreading of disease Covid-19 pandemic.. Girl symptom cough while sitting on Sofa.

First of all, be aware that anyone can get post-COVID Syndrome. "We have seen this occur in folks that have had no problems managing their symptoms at home or having mild symptoms, or even seeing patients actually get worse as time goes on, about two weeks after their infection," says Dr. Vanichkachorn. "There does seem to be a relationship also with age, and that could reflect that perhaps individuals are just more sensitive to the infection as we get older, which, of course, we've seen in the news. But, again, anybody can get this. I think that's the takeaway point for this. We've had individuals who have been in great health prior to their infection, and they have also had difficulties in bouncing back." 

RELATED: 7 Tips You Must Follow to Avoid COVID, Say Doctors


What to Do if You Feel These Symptoms

Doctors in medical masks and gloves

Not every city has a clinic like Dr. Vanichkachorn's. If you feel any Long COVID symptoms, contact your doctor and ask about options for treatment. Although there is no "cure," they may be able to rehabilitate you in some way, so you can get closer to your "old self." In the meantime, follow the Mayo Clinic's public health fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, 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