COVID has been discussed as a matter of life or death but there is a scary ground in between: Even after a mild case of COVID—one you may not even recognize—you could develop lifelong symptoms that leave you debilitated (and it's happening to adults young and old, children too). It's called Long COVID, aka Post-COVID Syndrome, aka PASC, and it sufferers have been dubbed "long haulers." The symptoms are unique, and so knowing them are keys to knowing how to address a potential case. That's why Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke about them when the pandemic was raging, and now, with the surge, it's worth revisiting. Read on for the symptoms—remembering that even if you have them, that does not make you immune to another infection. And to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Dr. Fauci Warned of Long COVID is "Very Real"
Dr. Fauci called Long COVID "post-acute COVID 19 syndrome." The symptoms are "very severe months after they have technically recovered from the disease," MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said on air. "They're still not able to work. People have long-term and very serious consequences." "This is a real phenomenon," Fauci added. "I, myself, presently, am dealing and helping a number of people who have a post acute COVID 19 syndrome—they are virologically okay. The virus is no longer identified in them, but they have a persistence of symptoms that can be debilitating."
Dr. Fauci Warned of Extreme Fatigue
Fauci told Maddow you might suffer "extreme fatigue." "You don't want to be scaring people and alarming them, but they really should know that we don't know what the long-term consequences are, even when it looks like a routine infection," Dr. Fauci told Medscape in July. "We better be careful. Even after you clear the virus, there are postviral symptoms. I know, because I follow on the phone a lot of people who call me up and talk about their course. And it's extraordinary how many people have a postviral syndrome that's very strikingly similar to myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. They just don't get back to normal energy or normal feeling of good health." One hallmark symptom of ME/CFS is post-exertional malaise, a crashing after exertion.
Dr. Fauci Warned of Muscle Aches
Another key symptom of Long COVID—and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome—is muscle aches and pains, or myalgia. Myalgia can often be mistaken for something else—you may think you're having a heart attack but it's actually inflammation in your rib cartilage, or you may have a "bad back," thinking it's due to something you lifted, but in fact, it's myalgia.
Dr. Fauci Warned of Temperature Dysregulation
You may have "Temperature dysregulation," says Fauci, and World Neurology, from the World Federation of Neurology, mentions it, too. "Most of these patients were in excellent health prior to getting infected with SARS-CoV-2," they say. "They all had myriad symptoms during the acute phase; however, as the fever and respiratory symptoms improved, they are left with persistent systemic symptoms, some of which are gradually improving, but not all are following that course."
Dr. Fauci Warned of Brain Fog
"Some of them even have situations with what they call brain fog," Dr. Fauci told Maddow, "where it's very difficult to them to focus or to concentrate, can be really quite disturbing. We are doing a lot on that." "One study of older adults in Argentina found a surprising amount of dementia-like changes in memory and thinking for at least six months after a bout with the coronavirus — regardless of the severity of their infection. Other researchers found Alzheimer's-related proteins in the blood of New Yorkers whose COVID-19 triggered brain symptoms early on," reports the AP.
You May Have These Other Symptoms, Too
According to a study in the Lancet, there are up to 200 symptoms long haulers can have, including new allergies, constipation, COVID toe, hallucinations, tightness of chest, coughing up blood, breathing with difficulty, severe migraines, chills, tachycardia, fainting, the list goes on and on.
Can You Get Long COVID After Vaccination?
Dr. Fauci said he does not know yet if you can get Long COVID if you get COVID after vaccination. "If mild breakthrough infection is turning into long Covid, we don't have a grasp of that number," Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at the Yale School of Medicine, told the New York Times.
What to Do if You Suffer From Long COVID
Tell your medical professional if you have any of those symptoms. Although doctors still don't know how to cure it, they can help treat the symptoms. Dr. Fauci says the medical community is studying Long COVID intensely. "We're going to make a major investment in research dollars to try and find out the full extent of this," he told Maddow. "Any hints towards what the underlying mechanisms are, what we can do to treat it. We take it very seriously for the simple reason that even if a small fraction and it appears to be more than just a small fraction of people have persistent symptoms—and globally, when you have approaching a hundred million people having been infected, this could be something that really could be an issue. And that's the reason why we're taking it very seriously." As should you—so to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.