With much of the media coverage about COVID-19 being dominated by the acute symptoms, and the immediate concern for loss of life, it is important to remember that many patients do survive the first few weeks. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), as of this week almost 100 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide, and of those roughly 2 million people have died. As much as this is a reason to be concerned and keep the necessary restrictions in place, it also evidence that almost 98 million people have recovered. Countless more individuals may have had COVID-19 without getting tested, or without showing symptoms. No matter if you have had a confirmed positive test or not, these are the symptoms that are most likely to be experienced if you had COVID-19. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
You May Feel Fatigue
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of the acute phase of COVID-19, but it is also one of the most common long-term symptoms as well. Although research is still continuing, for many of the “long haulers” (those who have been infected with COVID-19 and are experiencing long-term symptoms), many report severe fatigue that interferes with their daily life. This can cause people to be unable to return to their normal activities. Treatment options are limited at this point, with limited data on the duration of these symptoms.
You May Feel Shortness of Breath
Many patients have found that COVID-19 has caused severe shortness of breath. Many patients develop this symptom early on in the course of their infection. Usually associated with the cough in the acute setting, it is one of the major symptoms that causes patients to come to the Emergency Department soon after the onset of symptoms. Even as patients are recovering from the acute COVID-19 infection, shortness of breath continues to be a major symptom. According to one study in The Lancet, roughly 25% of patients have shortness of breath that reduces their ability to walk normal distances. Although this study was on patients who were confirmed to have COVID-19, it is very likely that patients with similar shortness of breath or new onset exercise intolerance may have also had COVID-19.
You May Feel Confusion
For many of the COVID-19 “long haulers”, confusion or “brain fog” is a common symptom. According to a study out of Chicago, 40% of patients with COVID-19 can have neurologic symptoms. Although there are severe symptoms such as encephalitis (inflammation and direct infection of the brain tissue), or stroke, most patients had confusion and an overall decline in cognition. Even in patients that had recovered from the acute phase of the COVID-19 infection, a marked confusion or inattention can linger. Thought to be due to the inflammation that occurs with the COVID-19 virus, the duration of this confusion is still unknown.
You May Experience a Loss of Taste and Smell
COVID-19 has been very different than most viruses in that loss of taste and smell has been one of the most common and specific symptoms. Many patients experienced these symptoms prior to the onset of the rest of the COVID-19 symptoms. The concerning reality is that many patients are reporting continued symptoms months after their initial recovery. Scientists believe that the loss of taste is due to damage to the cells that help to process smells which are found in the upper part of the nasal passage. This is a positive finding as it means the sense of taste may return. Initially it was thought that the loss of smell was due to direct damage to the neurons that transmit smell to the brain. If these cells were damaged, the loss of smell and taste could have been more permanent.
You May Feel Anxiety and Depression
Living through a pandemic can cause anxiety or depression in anyone. With the constant barrage of negative news, as well as the stay-at-home orders in many municipalities, there is a definite concern that there will be a spike in mental health related problems. What is more concerning is that there is now some preliminary evidence to suggest that COVID-19 actually causes inflammation in the brain that can precipitate anxiety and depression. No matter if caused by COVID-19 or from life being completely affected by the pandemic, mental health concerns should not ignored. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, please call your primary care physician or call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 800-273-8255.
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Final Words From the Doctor
As more people are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the symptoms that linger will be better understood. Some symptoms are more likely to be present with a COVID-19 infection even for those individuals who may not have a confirmed COVID-19 test result. With the advent of the vaccines, hopefully the list of symptoms that persist will decrease as more and more individuals become immune to the COVID-19 infection.
In the meantime, follow Fauci’s fundamentals and help end this pandemic—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, 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.