Virus Experts Warn of These COVID Symptoms
The common symptoms of COVID-19—fatigue, fever, cough, headache—are well-known at this point and to be expected for the majority of people who get the virus. But there are other, more unusual symptoms still causing concern for doctors. "There is currently research going on to determine how many people with COVID-19 infections have symptoms that do not resolve," says infectious disease physician Kristin Englund, M.D. "However, we know that patients with lingering COVID-19 symptoms aren't necessarily those who were hospitalized with severe cases initially. Many patients have had a fairly mild infection, yet, symptoms have persisted more than four weeks or potentially worsened after time." Here are five COVID-19 symptoms experts are concerned about. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Racing Heartbeat and Dizziness
Some people have reported dizziness and unusually high heart rates after getting COVID-19. "People who have long COVID (sometimes called long haulers) may develop several different types of symptoms affecting various organs including the brain, lungs, and kidneys. One subtype of long COVID is POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome)," says Dara K. Lee Lewis, MD. "The underlying cause of POTS is not yet known. It often follows a period of bedrest after an injury such as a concussion, surgery, or a viral illness like mononucleosis or the flu. More recently, POTS has been diagnosed in some people who have had COVID-19. Even after the acute infection resolves, these people may have lingering fatigue, lightheadedness, and a rapid heart rate when upright. Many researchers suspect that POTS may be an autoimmune disorder, caused by the body's immune system becoming overzealous. When this happens, the immune system correctly targets the intruding virus but mistakenly targets the body's own healthy tissues, causing unwanted damage."
Depression and anxiety have been reported as symptoms of COVID-19. "We are still learning about the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the brain. Data from Wuhan suggest that the virus may invade the brain, with more than one-third of infected patients developing neurologic symptoms," says Stephanie Collier, MD, MPH. "In addition to brain infection, we know that the pandemic has resulted in worsening mental health outcomes due to the psychological toll of isolation, loneliness, unemployment, financial stressors, and the loss of loved ones. The prescription of antidepressants has spiked, intimate partner violencehas increased, and suicidal thoughts are on the rise, especially in young adults."
Loss Of Taste and Smell
Scientists are beginning to understand more about how COVID-19 may cause a loss of smell and taste even months after someone has recovered from the virus: Research published in Cell shows that an inflammatory response that travels to the brain may be to blame. "What the data show is that the virus is limited to this one type of cell called SUS, or sustentacular—cells in the olfactory tissue in the nasal cavity," says virologist Benjamin tenOever, director of the NYU Langone Virology Institute and a faculty member at New York University's Grossman School of Medicine. "This cell type performs an important structural role and ensures that related cells, called olfactory sensory neurons, in that tissue are organized in such a way that you can perceive smells. Following SARS-CoV-2 infection, we find that hamsters have lost more than half of all of their SUS cells in a two-day period. So the structure of the olfactory system has just been totally decayed away because of that significant cell death. And as a result, those SUS cells are now spewing out a great deal of material that triggers inflammation."
Neurological issues have become a common—and worrying—symptom of COVID-19. "As a neurologist working in the COVID Survivorship Program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, I find that my patients all have similar issues," says Tamara Fong, MD, PhD. "It's hard to concentrate, they say. They can't think of a specific word they want to use, and they are uncharacteristically forgetful. Those who come to our cognitive clinic are among the estimated 22% to 32% of patients who recovered from COVID-19, yet find they still have brain fog as part of their experience of long COVID, or post-acute sequelae of SARS CoV-2 infection (PASC), as experts call it. In many cases, brain fog is temporary and gets better on its own. However, we don't really understand why brain fog happens after COVID-19, or how long these symptoms are likely to last. But we do know that this form of brain fog can affect different aspects of cognition."
"The SARS-CoV-2 virus can damage the heart in several ways," says Dara K. Lee Lewis, MD. "For example, the virus may directly invade or inflame the heart muscle, and it may indirectly harm the heart by disrupting the balance between oxygen supply and demand. Heart injury, which may be measured by elevated levels of the enzyme troponin in the bloodstream, has been detected in about one-quarter of patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 illness. Of these patients, about one-third have pre-existing CVD… People with CVD who adopt healthy behaviors can strengthen their defenses against COVID-19 while also reducing the long-term risk from cardiovascular disease itself. This means plenty of physical activity and following a healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, 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.