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Sure Signs You've Caught COVID After Your Vaccine

You may have a “breakthrough” case of COVID-19 and these are the signs.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

It is unlikely but completely possible for you to catch COVID-19 even after being vaccinated. These "breakthrough" cases are rare, but are increasing as your immunity wanes—and they can be caused by more transmissible variants, among other threats. (This is why the FDA na dCDC approved boosters for everyone over 18, to be taken six months aftet your last dose.) How do you know if you have a breakthrough infection? Read on for the sure signs you've caught COVID-19 even after being vaccinated—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


You've Lost Your Sense of Taste or Smell

Sick woman trying to sense smell of half fresh orange, has symptoms of Covid-19, corona virus infection - loss of smell and taste

Did you experience a weird stint where you couldn't taste or smell anything? Dr. Sharon Chekijian, a Yale Medicine emergency medicine doctor and assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine, says it could have been coronavirus. "One sign that you were likely infected is a loss of smell and sometimes taste," she explains. "Although other viruses or medical conditions can do this too, right now, it may mean you're infected—even in the absence of other symptoms."


You May Have a Fever

Sick woman lying in bed with high fever.

"Fever is one of the top three COVID-19 symptoms. 87.9% of people with positive laboratory COVID tests, report having a fever," says Dr. Deborah Lee. "Normal body temperature is 98.6°F. Your temperature is considered raised if it is above that.  In COVID infection, the fever is usually 100°C or above."

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You May Have a Cough

Blonde woman coughing.

"57% of COVID-19 patients report a cough as a COVID-19 symptom report a cough," reports Dr. Lee. "Although typically the cough is dry, it may sometimes be wet. The WHO report (16-24th February 2020) on 55,924 cases reported 66.7% had a dry cough, but 33.4% were coughing up mucus."


You May Have a Sore Throat

Woman with sore throat at home

"5 -17.4% of patients have reported a sore throat as early COVID-19 symptoms, in published medical studies," says Dr. Lee. "ENT specialists think not enough attention has been paid to a sore throat as a COVID symptom, because most medical papers focus on people with severe and more advanced COVID infections."

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You May Have a Headache

Young woman have headache migraine stress or tinnitus

Broadway star Danny Burstein recalled getting "migraines on steroids" during his terrible bout with COVID-19, and headaches are one of the CDC's most common symptoms. Since you might normally get them—due to stress, loud noises or body chemistry—you may not associate them with the coronavirus. But you should. "We're seeing a small subset of people who have prolonged headache symptom long after their acute illness is over," Dr. Valeriya Klats, a neurologist and headache specialist with the Hartford HealthCare (HHC) Ayer Institute Headache Center in Fairfield County, tells Hartford Healthcare


You May Have Skin Issues

Uncomfortable young woman scratching her arm while sitting on the sofa at home.

While neither the WHO or CDC mentions skin rashes as a possible symptom of COVID, doctors across the country have reported various types of skin rashes—from COVID toes to rashes and lesions on the body—thought to be as a result of virus-related inflammation. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology has set up a registry where healthcare workers can report cases of skin conditions that develop in COVID-19 patients, in hopes of understanding exactly why the virus is causing these issues. 

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You May Feel Fatigue

Woman sleeping on the couch in the living room.

Was there a time over the last few months when you simply felt too tired to move? Maybe you thought it was due to a rigorous workout, or maybe a lack of sleep. An overwhelming number of people who have coronavirus experience only mild symptoms, and a common one of those is extreme fatigue. As with any type of infection, your body uses energy to fight against it, and the result is feeling more tired than usual. This fatigue, for "long haulers," can last for months after the virus is shed.

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You May Have Pink Eye

A woman's pink eye with infection.

Pink eye is one of those pesky eye infections that most of us experience at some point in life. However, the American Academy of Ophthalmology points out that the condition, also called conjunctivitis, can be COVID-related. "Several reports suggest that SARS-CoV-2 can cause a mild follicular conjunctivitis otherwise indistinguishable from other viral causes, and possibly be transmitted by aerosol contact with conjunctiva," they explained in a statement.

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You May Have These Other Symptoms, Too


Besides those you've just read about, the CDC reports patients having chills, muscle or body aches, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea. "People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus," says the CDC. Keep reading for what you should do about them.

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What to Do If You Have These Symptoms

Healthcare worker with protective equipment performs coronavirus swab on a woman.

If you suspect you have COVID even after being vaccinated, seek a COVID-19 test immediately. "Vaccine breakthrough cases are expected," says the CDC. "COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control. However no vaccines are 100% effective at preventing illness. There will be a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated who still get sick, are hospitalized, or die from COVID-19." Be sure to tell your test administrator you were vaccinated, so they can report your case to the CDC. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss 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