The coronavirus kills some people and leaves others feeling nothing at all. Then there are those in between—those with Post-COVID Syndrome. It can be a symptomatic sure sign you’ve had COVID—and are still damaged by it. And it can ruin lives. “While most persons with COVID-19 recover and return to normal health, some patients can have symptoms that can last for weeks or even months after recovery from acute illness,” reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Even people who are not hospitalized and who have mild illness can experience persistent or late symptoms. The most commonly reported long-term symptoms include” the following—read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
“This isn’t just feeling sleepy after a hard day’s work,” explains one long-hauler, a formerly fit 44-year-old who’s been suffering since March. “It’s like a Dementor from Harry Potter is sucking out my soul.” Simple actions—like doing the dishes or throwing a snowball—can cause the body to crash. “Many people who have recovered from SARS have gone on to develop chronic fatigue syndrome, a complex disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that worsens with physical or mental activity, but doesn’t improve with rest,” reports the Mayo Clinic. “The same may be true for people who have had COVID-19.”
Since catching COVID, Patrick Varnes, a 41-year-old financial director in Atlanta, has “shortness of breath, fatigue and headaches,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which profiled him in a story about experimental drugs being used to treat Post-COVID Syndrome. He describes his situation as “living in an internal prison.”
“In our clinic, we have noticed patients with COVID-19 infection who developed a new cough or lingering persistent cough, after 14 days of treatment and isolation, after being tested negative and after the resolution of other symptoms,” says a study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases & Preventive Medicine.
Arthralgia (joint pain) is a common symptom of coronavirus and a study published in the Nature Public Health Emergency Collection found that at least one patient in the 40 that were studied experienced joint pain. This joint ailment may linger in those who had the virus, causing hand or wrist pain to remain.
You might have tightness in the chest, which could be inflammation. It could also be a heart issue. “I was feeling completely normal and was able to put my COVID experience behind me,” Madeline Neville wrote in a viral Facebook post from Dec. 8. “After all, I am a twenty-year-old girl in good health. I am the subset of the population that is supposed to be best equipped to able to handle COVID.” Instead: “I experienced such intense chest pain, shortness of breath, and a slew of other horrible symptoms that came on suddenly and as a complete surprise,” she wrote. The diagnosis: congestive heart failure. “I have been hospitalized for the past nine days, where I struggled every day to do even the most menial tasks like going to the bathroom and showering on my own, brushing my own teeth and hair, or even walking 10 steps,” she wrote.
“It’s becoming known as Covid brain fog: troubling cognitive symptoms that can include memory loss, confusion, difficulty focusing, dizziness and grasping for everyday words,” reports the New York Times. “Increasingly, Covid survivors say brain fog is impairing their ability to work and function normally.” “It scares me to think I’m working,” Lisa Mizelle, a veteran nurse practitioner, 53, told the paper. “I feel like I have dementia.”
If you’ve read this far, you can guess why depression may be a symptom. Post-COVID Syndrome can feel alternately like a Dementor is sucking your soul or an internal prison. “People who have severe symptoms of COVID-19 often have to be treated in a hospital’s intensive care unit, with mechanical assistance such as ventilators to breathe,” says the Mayo Clinic. “Simply surviving this experience can make a person more likely to later develop post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression and anxiety.”
“People have told us the most common problems after being unwell with COVID are shoulder and back problems, but joint and muscle problems can occur in any part of the body,” reports the NHS. “Some people have widespread aching that can come and go for a time as you recover. Some people also have odd or altered feelings such as numbness or pins and needles and weakness in the arms or legs.”
“In Carol Stream, Joann Magoch was back to shopping Monday. But, the COVID-19 survivor said she is not yet back to her old self,” reported ABC 7 Chicago. “I had a bad cough, fever—I was so tired,” she told the station. “I had a headache that would not go away.” Her mom was in the ICU with COVID. “Six months later, both women are fighting back against the headaches, muscle pain and exhaustion,” reports the station. “They are waiting to see how long the effects will last.”
As your body’s immune system responds—or over reacts—your body temperature may rise and fall. “Day 47 with a fever. Second Covid test – negative. Blood work – normal. My body officially isn’t fighting this virus anymore, yet my fever and sinus tachycardia tell a different story,” wrote Kate Porter, 35, on Twitter. “Helplessly sad isn’t even the right description at this point.”
Experts “advise those recovering from COVID-19 to watch for the following symptoms – and to consult their physician or a cardiologist if they experience them: increasing or extreme shortness of breath with exertion, chest pain, swelling of the ankles, heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat, not being able to lie flat without shortness of breath, waking up at night short of breath, lightheadedness or dizzy spells,” reports the American Heart Association.
“More serious long-term complications appear to be less common but have been reported,” says the CDC. “These have been noted to affect different organ systems in the body. These include:
- Cardiovascular: inflammation of the heart muscle
- Respiratory: lung function abnormalities
- Renal: acute kidney injury
- Dermatologic: rash, hair loss
- Neurological: smell and taste problems, sleep issues, difficulty with concentration, memory problems
- Psychiatric: depression, anxiety, changes in mood
The long-term significance of these effects is not yet known. CDC will continue active investigation and provide updates as new data emerge, which can inform COVID-19 clinical care as well as the public health response to COVID-19.”
These “long hauler” symptoms can be signs you’ve already had COVID. Getting a positive COVID test or a positive antibody test is the most concrete way to prove to others that you have had coronavirus. (Although note that some long-haulers do not have antibodies.) “Antibody tests check your blood by looking for antibodies, which may tell you if you had a past infection with the virus that causes COVID-19,” says the CDC. “Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose a current COVID-19 infection, except in instances in which viral testing is delayed. An antibody test may not show if you have a current COVID-19 infection because it can take 1–3 weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies. Whether you test positive or negative for COVID-19 on a viral or an antibody test, you still should take steps to protect yourself and others. We do not know how much protection (immunity) antibodies to the virus might provide against getting infected again. Confirmed and suspected cases of reinfection have been reported, but remain rare. Scientists are working to understand this.”
“Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate” this Post-COVID Syndrome, says the agency. Call your doctor if you experience the symptoms. “CDC continues to work to identify how common these symptoms are, who is most likely to get them, and whether these symptoms eventually resolve.” As for yourself, follow Fauci’s fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—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.