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Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus Without Realizing It

You may have gotten the virus months ago and not known it.
Close up Portrait of young woman with headache

It will likely be a while until we learn the results of major antibody studies to determine just how many people have already been infected with COVID-19—which will help determine just how close we are to achieving herd immunity we actually are. However, one thing is crystal clear: Many more people were infected with coronavirus than we previously thought. You might be wondering if you fall into that category. Here are 12 ways to help you figure out if you've already had coronavirus. 

1

A Positive Antibody Test

Medical staff member with mask, rubber gloves and protective equipment performs Coronavirus nasal swabs to patient
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The only way to know if you have already been infected with COVID-19 is by taking an antibody test. "Unfortunately, outside of testing, there is no way you can determine if you've had COVID solely based on symptoms," says Shannon Sovndal, MD, board-certified doctor in emergency medicine. "Many coronaviruses (as well as the flu) can make you feel similar. Additionally, COVID-19 may infect an individual and cause little or no symptoms."

2

You Experienced Symptoms Earlier in the Year

Sick man sleeps covered with a blanket lying in bed with high fever, resting at living room. He is exhausted and suffering from flu with cup of tea with lemon, medicaments. Influenza season.
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In January and February, most of us didn't realize the coronavirus was slowly spreading across the country. If you experienced any symptoms earlier in the year, you probably brushed them off as something else. However, there's a decent chance you actually had COVID-19. While the first known coronavirus deaths occurred in February in California, it's likely the virus was circulating weeks earlier. 

3

You Lost Your Sense of Taste or Smell

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Did you experience a weird stint where you couldn't taste or smell anything? Sharon Chekijian, MD, MPH, 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."

4

Thunderous Headache

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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.

5

You Experienced Bizarre Skin Issues

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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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6

You Suffered a Period of Extreme Exhaustion

woman feeling sick and uncomfortable in bed
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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. But 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. 

7

You Had an Unrelenting Dry Cough

Sick man looks at pill bottle whilst coughing.
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According to Chinese researchers, 68 percent of coronavirus patients complain of a dry, continuous cough.

8

You Had Pink Eye

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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.

9

You Were Plagued with Digestive Issues

Woman Lying On Bed Suffering From Stomach Pain
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Did you experience diarrhea, nausea, or gas, and brush it off as something you ate or the stomach flu? "Some people have classic signs of COVID infection like body aches, fevers, headaches, cough and sometimes shortness of breath, but a lot of people are coming to the emergency department with nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain," Dr. Chekijian explains. "While we would usually think this is just a stomach bug, right now there's a good chance that it's COVID." 

10

You Were Around Others Who Had It

People interacting during coffee break at medical or scientific conference.
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If you attended a conference, church service, social event, protest or classes with others who were infected, you may not have dodged the infection bullet after all. Research has found that many people had COVID and never realized it because they were asymptomatic. One study found that many asymptomatic carriers were living in the same area as other people who tested positive. 

11

You Experienced Breathlessness

man wearing air filter mask having Dyspnea, breathing difficulty, respiratory distress in unhealthy, danger, polluted air environment
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If you were having trouble breathing, it could have been COVID-19. Because the virus is an infection of the upper respiratory tract, breathlessness—especially at rest—may have been a sign you were battling the virus. 

12

You Thought You Had the Flu

Young man suffering from cold at his home
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Due to the fact that COVID's spread occurred during cold and flu season—and the symptoms are quite similar—it's very possible you were misdiagnosed even by your own doctor. For example, if you were really sick and took a flu test in January or February, before COVID tests were available, there's a very good chance you had it. 

13

What to Do Next

Back view of a doctor attending to a woman patient through a video call with the laptop at home.
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If you experienced any of the symptoms mentioned here, contact a medical professional. And whether or not you had COVID-19, it's still best to protect yourself and others. To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.

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