Everyone wants to know when "coronavirus will be over." For some, it may never end; these "long haulers" got COVID, even a mild case for some, and have debilitating symptoms that go on and on. Might you be one of them? How to tell? During a lecture at McGill University, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said "there are those—anywhere from 10 to 30%—in which their signs and symptoms are not completely explainable by readily apparent or identifiable pathogenic processes. And we refer to that as Long COVID." He went on to mention "very common lead reported signs and symptoms" and we've rounded them up in this article, with expert commentary from Dr. Karen Jubanyik of Yale. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
You May Have Extreme, Sometimes Debilitating Fatigue
Long COVID sufferers will experience a lot of fatigue, and there is a reason for this. Karen Jubanyik, MD, Emergency medicine physician at Yale Medicine, associate professor at Yale School of Medicine explains: "People with both acute COVID infection as well as long COVID often experience fatigue. Most viral infections can cause fatigue, and this is a sign to slow down your activities and rest. We do not have good medications to fight viruses, and so we really depend on our immune system to fight off a virus." Dr. Jubanyik advises Long COVID patients to "give your immune system a fighting chance by resting when you are ill with COVID, or any other virus. Fatigue that lasts more than 2-3 weeks is generally due to long haul COVID, especially if the initial symptoms were relatively mild and did not cause the person to be hospitalized. The fatigue can be debilitating and also hard to tease out the cause, as many of the symptoms overlap with depression and brain fog and other neurological disorders."
You May Have Unexplained Shortness of Breath
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, and one of the most common symptoms of it is shortness of breath. Naturally, long COVID patients will also suffer from shortness of breath. Dr. Jubanyik says, "There are people who were marathon runners or other trained athletes who find themselves only able to do a fraction of their baseline activity without feeling very winded or short of breath. People who were very ill with COVID initially often have lung damage that explains their breathing problems, but we also are seeing people who were never all that ill initially present with persistent shortness of breath." However, shortness of breath can have other causes. "The feeling of breathlessness can be caused by a host of medical conditions," says Dr. Jubanyik. "So it is important to get evaluated to make sure a person does not have a new serious heart problem involving the heart muscle, valves, pericardial sac, or arteries, or anemia, or other conditions that could cause the sensation of breathlessness."
You May Have Muscle Aches
COVID-19, like many other viruses, causes people's muscles to ache. This symptom is also known as myalgias. This is also a main symptom of long COVID, according to Dr. Jubanyik. She says, "In long haul COVID, patients often have persistent achiness in their limbs that can make normal activity difficult."
You May Have Dysautonomia
Dysautonomia is when people feel lightheaded and dizzy. Dr. Fauci calls this symptom "characterized by temperature dysregulation, and unexplained tachycardia.'" Dr. Jubanyik says that this symptom is "unknown if due to the virus itself or the immune system. Unclear how long it may last."
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You May Have Sleep Disturbances
Long COVID patients were reported to have a lot of trouble with sleeping. Dr. Jubanyik explains that, "With long COVID, sleep disturbances can persist for weeks or months. Poor quality and quantity of sleep can lead to other complications including fatigue and brain fog." She also says that this symptom is cyclical and dependent on the person's life. "The massive changes in people's lives due to COVID safety regulations led to odd dreams."
You May Have Depression and Anxiety
The COVID-19 pandemic and virus can already make people nervous and anxious, even if they aren't infected. Long COVID patients have also experienced depression and axienty in their symptoms. "Many viruses, including COVID, can affect the brain, which may lead to neurotransmitter alterations that can contribute to depression and anxiety," Dr. Jubanyik explains. "And of course, people who themselves were very ill or had family members who were very ill or died may experience grief and PTSD. Moreover, patients whose lives were altered by their loss in ability to function or work may also experience reactive depression and anxiety."
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You May Have Brain Fog
A symptom of Long COVID is being referred to by doctors as brain fog, "…which actually means people cannot concentrate on focus," said Dr. Fauci. Dr. Jubanyik says, "Patients with brain fog report feeling like their thinking and concentration feel off, they feel slow or out of it. They report having difficulty concentrating and with short term memory." She advises long COVID patients to "Make sure to eat well, sleep well, stay as physically active as possible, and avoiding drugs and alcohol may help."
How to Stay Safe Out There
If you fear you have Long COVID, contact a medical professional. The NIH has devoted millions in funding to help file a cure but right now there is no cure; doctors can only try to help you with your symptoms. 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.