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As coronavirus cases recede in America, more than 10% of those who caught the virus may feel symptoms for years and years, possibly forever. They have Long COVID and yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO), held a seminar to sound the alarm about it. "Long COVID should not fall through the cracks," said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "Long COVID could become the pandemic on the pandemic," warned doctor Gail Carson, from the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium. "People are losing jobs, they're losing relationships. There's a real urgency to try and understand this," she said. Read on to see if you have some of the most common symptoms of Long COVID, ranked from less common to most common—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
You Might Vomit
You might throw up, especially after exerting yourself. "It's the weirdest thing I've ever experienced," Helen Calder, from Liverpool, told the BBC, which reports: "Nearly four months after she and her family caught the virus, and after needing hospital treatment twice, she still experiences a relapse roughly every two weeks where she is hit by debilitating fatigue, nausea, headaches and limb pain. Her doctors have diagnosed post viral fatigue and she says any small over-exertion while she is feeling well can set her back for days at a time."
You Might Experience Confusion
Although low on the WHO's list of symptoms, confusion, or "brain fog," is quite frequent among Long Haulers. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, calls it an "inability to concentrate" and it can result in forgetfulness and anxiety, as well.
You Might Have Abdominal Pain
Long COVID-caused abdominal pain may be hard for doctors to diagnose. "I have had a rotating constellation of symptoms, different each day and worse each evening: fever, headache, dizziness, palpitations, tachycardia, and others," writes Jeffrey N. Siegelman, MD, a long hauler himself, in a piece on JAMA. "As a result, I have been reminded of the need to listen to the patient first, even in the absence of conclusive testing. The next time I care for someone with vague abdominal pain, or fatigue, or paresthesia, or any of the myriad conditions that are uncomfortable on the inside but look fine on the outside, I will remember that these symptoms are real and impactful for patients."
You May Have Chest Pain
Your Long COVID chest pain may be tissue inflammation—or it may be a heart issue. "Covid-19 is not only a lung illness: it can cause other life-changing complications. In particular, because it can increase the risk of blood clots, it can lead to deep vein thrombosis, heart attacks and stroke," reports BHF. "Less commonly, it can cause heart muscle inflammation and heart rhythm disturbances, such as atrial fibrillation. (This isn't specific to coronavirus—for example, damage to the heart is also known to happen in severe flu)."
You May Have a Sore Throat
In one study, says McKnight's: "Almost 17% of patients who were considered fully recovered tested positive for the virus in follow-up screenings. And patients who were most likely to have a new positive test result were those with sore throat and rhinitis (chronic sneezing or a congested, drippy nose), reported lead author Francesco Landi, M.D., Ph.D."
You May Have Nausea
"It is now clear that not only the lungs, the gastrointestinal tract could also be attacked by SARS-CoV-2," says one study in the Journal of Microbiology, Immunology and Infection. "Its host receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which acts as a gateway to infection, has been found to be highly expressed in the gastrointestinal epithelium and may lead to the development of nausea/vomiting."
You May Have Dyspnea
"Few sensations are as frightening as not being able to get enough air. Shortness of breath — known medically as dyspnea — is often described as an intense tightening in the chest, air hunger, difficulty breathing, breathlessness or a feeling of suffocation," reports the Mayo Clinic.
You May Have Congestion
Says the Mayo Clinic: "Nasal congestion or 'stuffy nose' occurs when nasal and adjacent tissues and blood vessels become swollen with excess fluid, causing a 'stuffy' plugged feeling. Nasal congestion may or may not include a nasal discharge or 'runny nose.'"
You May Have Diarrhea
"In the early days of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, clinicians focused on respiratory symptoms and transmission, but Chinese researchers soon identified the GI/fecal/oral route as another avenue of spread for this imperialistic virus," reports MedPage Today. Long Haulers may experience diarrhea as a result.
You May Have a Loss of Smell or Loss of Taste
"Obviously, the early symptoms of COVID-19 disease are very similar to a flu-like syndrome," Fauci told The Washington Post. However: "Many people now have this curious loss of smell and taste." This sensation can last for long after you've shed the virus.
You May Have Chills
"When chills are accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, body aches or fatigue, they're more likely associated with a systemic infection," says Keck Medicine. "Chills boost your body's core temperature when your immune system attempts to fight off infection," says Rose Taroyan, MD, MPH, a family medicine physician at Keck Medicine of USC and clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
Temperature fluctuations are not uncommon for long haulers. "My symptoms have gotten worse and are typical of what is being reported for COVID-19 'long-haulers' — recurring fever, debilitating fatigue, inability to concentrate, headache, dizziness, body aches and more," reports one first responder to the Washington Post.
You May Have Body Aches
Fauci calls this "myalgia" and you may have pain in all sorts of places. "Multiorgan symptoms after COVID-19 are being reported by increasing numbers of patients. They range from cough and shortness of breath, to fatigue, headache, palpitations, chest pain, joint pain, physical limitations, depression, and insomnia, and affect people of varying ages," says a report in the Lancet.
You May Have a Headache
"In some patients, the severe headache of COVID-19 only lasts a few days, while in others, it can last up to months. It is presenting mostly as a whole-head, severe-pressure pain. It's different than migraine, which by definition is unilateral throbbing with sensitivity to light or sound, or nausea," reports Novant Health.
You May Cough
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report in July that showed that 35 percent of 292 non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients continued to experience symptoms—such as cough, fatigue and shortness of breath—up to three weeks after diagnosis, whereas 90 percent of influenza patients fully recover and regain functionality within two weeks of a positive test result," says the Texas Medical Center.
You Are Most Likely to Have Fatigue
Fatigue is the most common symptom of Long COVID, according to most researchers and patients. This most resembles, according to Fauci, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis, which the CDC says is: "a serious, long-term illness that affects many body systems. People with ME/CFS are often not able to do their usual activities. At times, ME/CFS may confine them to bed. People with ME/CFS have severe fatigue and sleep problems."
Long Haulers Most Often Experience More Than One of These Symptoms
If you just have a runny nose, it's unlikely you're a long hauler. But if you have a runny nose, headaches that just won't quit, bone-crushing fatigue and some weird pains, it's possible—especially if you feel or know you had COVID-19 at some point. Call a medical professional to get checked—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.