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With new and more transmissible variants of COVID-19 now in America, you may be wondering if you’ve had the virus by now. Although an antibody test may reveal the answer, an estimated 10% or more of those infected will have long-lasting symptoms. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, calls this post-acute COVID syndrome, or PACS. “There are a considerable number of individuals who have a post-viral syndrome that really in many respects can incapacitate them for weeks and weeks following so-called recovery and clearing of the virus,” he says. 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.
You Will Very Likely Feel Long-Lasting Fatigue
…, and Symptoms That Resemble Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
The fatigue felt by long haulers—the term given to people with PACS, or Long COVID—can be soul-crushing. It makes you feel like your “old self” may never come back. “You can see people who’ve recovered who really do not get back to normal that they have things that are highly suggestive of myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS),” says Dr. Fauci. “Brain fog, fatigue, and difficulty in concentrating so this is something we really need to seriously look at.”
You May Have Shortness of Breath or Cough
COVID-19 can infect your lungs, among many other systems, so naturally, you may feel shortness of breath. This damage can last for more than a year and may never get better. “The type of pneumonia often associated with COVID-19 can cause long-standing damage to the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. The resulting scar tissue can lead to long-term breathing problems,” reports the Mayo Clinic. Anxiety or muscle pain, also common side effects of PACS, can also lead to shortness of breath.
You May Have Muscle Pain or Joint Pain
“Among the many longer-term health problems that have been associated with COVID-19 are shortness of breath, fatigue, cognitive issues, erratic heartbeat, gastrointestinal issues, low-grade fever, intolerance to physical or mental activity, and muscle and joint pains,” reports the director of the National Institutes of Health. “COVID-19 survivors report that these symptoms flair up unpredictably, often in different combinations, and can be debilitating for days and weeks at a time.”
You May Have Chest Pain
Post-COVID issues can include something painful like costochondritis (an inflammation of the tissue near the rib cage) or something life-threatening like heart damage, including an inflammation of the heart muscle called myocarditis. “With the myocarditis, this is something that we've been seeing in some of the really, really, really sick COVID patients, but it's sounding like there might be signs of myocarditis even less sick patients,” Todd Hurst, M.D., a cardiologist at Banner University Medicine Heart Institute, and an associate professor at the University of Arizona, tells the DAIC.
You May Feel Brain Fog
Fauci calls brain fog an “inability to concentrate” and it can also involve confusion or forgetfulness. It’s also a trademark symptom of ME/CFS. “Most people with ME/CFS have trouble thinking quickly, remembering things, and paying attention to details,” says the CDC. “Patients often say they have ‘brain fog’ to describe this problem because they feel ‘stuck in a fog’ and not able to think clearly.”
You Might Feel a Whole Variety of Symptoms—Often at the Same Time
Besides what you’ve just read about, you may feel “depression, intermittent fever, a fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations),” according to the CDC. Other more serious symptoms can include: “cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, dermatologic, neurological and psychiatric” symptoms. Read here for all 98 symptoms reported by long haulers.
What to Do if You Feel These Symptoms
Call your doctor to discuss these symptoms if you have them. However, there is no cure for PACS—yet. Dr. Fauci says funding has been devoted to studying the issue. "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, when you look at the 24-25 million people in the United States who have been infected … and globally when you have approaching 100 million people having been infected, this could be something that really could be an issue," Fauci said. So rest and seek help if needed, 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.