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The #1 COVID Symptom More People Should be Talking About

Beware Long COVID.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Although it's been long known that COVID-19 can cause a wide range of symptoms beyond a simple cold or flu, people continue to talk about the coronavirus as if it's primarily a respiratory illness. That's especially the case since the advent of the Omicron variant, which tends to cause milder illness in people who aren't at risk of severe outcomes. However, even the Omicron variant and BA.5 can result in the debilitating chronic syndrome known as long COVID, whose causes are not understood and currently has no cure (or even effective treatment). One set of symptoms can be particularly destructive. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


COVID Often Causes Neurological Problems

Radiologist looking at the MRI scan images.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, it's been clear that COVID symptoms can linger for weeks or months after the virus has cleared the body, amounting to a phenomenon known as "long COVID." Even mild cases of COVID can result in these long-lasting, debilitating symptoms. And some experts warn that because the Omicron variant was so contagious, the nation could be facing an epidemic of long COVID in the coming months.

One particularly serious and enduring aspect of COVID: It can affect the neurological system in some people, causing a wide range of symptoms that can be extreme—including crippling fatigue, brain fog, even difficulty finding words or trouble swallowing.


"I Couldn't Say Words Out Loud"

Close up of mature woman look in distance thinking.

This week, KOMO News profiled a Seattle resident whose bout with COVID now requires she see a speech therapist multiple times a week to cope with her inability to find words. "My husband asked me a question and I couldn't answer it," she said. "I started having trouble speaking. I had words in my head and I couldn't say them out loud." 


COVID Can Strike This Central Operating System

Stressed middle 60s aged worker woman massaging head suffering of headache in home office.

This week, researchers said that these brain-related symptoms—which may also include fatigue, voice problems, dizziness, rapid heart rate and trouble swallowing—may be related to the virus damaging the vagus nerve, a central part of the nervous system.

In the study, Spanish researchers looked at vagus nerve functioning in a group of long COVID patients. They found 66% had at least one symptom that suggested vagus nerve dysfunction. The most common symptoms were diarrhea (73%), rapid heart rate (59%), dizziness (45%), swallowing problems (45%), voice problems (45%), and low blood pressure (14%). The average duration of symptoms was 14 months.


How to Reduce Your Risk

Doctor in personal protective suit or PPE inject vaccine shot to stimulating immunity of woman patient at risk of coronavirus infection.

To reduce your risk of developing long COVID, get fully vaccinated and boosted. A review of 15 international studies released this week found that getting vaccinated slashes your chances of developing long COVID, and even improves long COVID symptoms if you contracted the virus before getting vaccinated. 

"In two studies, fully vaccinated people were less likely than unvaccinated people to develop medium- or long-term symptoms such as fatigue, headache, weakness in the arms and legs, persistent muscle pain, hair loss, dizziness, shortness of breath, loss of smell or lung scarring," reported WebMD. "In addition, three studies comparing long COVID symptoms before and after vaccination found that most people reported an improvement in symptoms after vaccination, either immediately or over several weeks." 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.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael