Catching the coronavirus is often discussed in terms of black and white: You either get the disease or don't, and get sick or don't, recover or perish. But there is a middle ground as well: An estimated 10 to 30% of people who catch COVID—even previously super-healthy people who catch a mild case—become ill and never recover. They are called "Long Haulers" and have "Long COVID," the symptoms of which can be debilitating and life-ruining. A recent survey from the UK's Office for National Statistics (ONS) narrowed down the most common symptoms. Read on for all of them—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
1 You May Feel Chronic Fatigue
Chronic fatigue is the most commonly observed and reported symptom of Long COVID. You won't just feel sleepy. You'll feel unable to function as you did previously. "It's like being battered and you are repeatedly battered over a period of time," says long hauler Paul Garner, a Professor at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and coordinating editor of the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group. "And then that was my first two months and the subsequent four months really as been lesser episodes, but still very fatigued. Partly you're muddled in your own head. You can't read things very well. Dealing with it is a full-time job."
2 You May Shortness of Breath
COVID-19 is primarily thought of as a respiratory illness and in fact the damage it does to your lungs can be hard to reverse. Although some Long Haulers had zero lung issues ever, those that did experience damage may have it for a very long time after originally catching the virus. (Shortness of breath may also be case by heart issues or even muscle pain.) It was the second most common symptom, according to the ONS.
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3 You May Feel Muscle Aches
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warns of Long COVID "myalgia," aches and pains. Long Haulers "have fatigue, myalgia, fever, and involvement of the neurological system, as well as cognitive abnormalities, such as the inability to concentrate," said Fauci, adding these "number of individuals who virologically have recovered from infection in fact, have persistence measured in weeks to months of symptomatology that does not appear to be due to persistent of the virus. They're referred to as long haulers."
4 You May Have Difficulty Concentrating
"One of the long-term effects seen in patients who've had COVID-19 is described as brain fog," says Dr. Halena Gazelka of the Mayo Clinic. "This can include short term memory, loss, confusion, difficulty concentrating, or just feeling different than they did before they had the infection." "You can have long-term effects and brain fog is a prominent one," confirms Dr. Mike Cirigiliano. "Very commonly seen one in three people have this kind of symptom complex. You can't focus. You feel tired, your memory has declined all of these things, and it can go on and on and on. And that's a major problem."
5 You May Get Headaches
Crushing headaches can be caused by vasoconstriction—a widening and shrinking of blood vessels in the brain. These can cause blackouts–and can affect children. "We are examining long COVID in children and we are seeing long COVID symptoms, mostly fatigue and headache," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky last month.
6 You May Have Heart Inflammation
"We found to our dismay that a number of individuals who have completely recovered and apparently are asymptomatic when they have sensitive imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance, imaging, or MRI, have found to have a disturbing number of individuals who have inflammation of the heart," said Dr. Fauci. "These are the kinds of things that tell us, we must be humble and that we do not completely understand the nature of this illness."
7 What to Do If You Fear You Have Long COVID
There is no cure yet for Long COVID, although millions in funding has been put toward figuring out why people have it and how they can recover. However, if you feel you have the symptoms mentioned here, contact a medical professional. Many are treating the 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.