The holiday season is here and so are three viruses–COVID, influenza and RSV. Experts have been sounding the alarm bell for weeks warning the public that this winter is going to be brutal and so far we have seen cases rise and hospitals overwhelmed with patients. While COVID-19 cases were dropping, there’s been a recent uptick and health officials are urging people to stay safe.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert did his final White House press conference recently and said, “My message — and my final message, maybe the final message I give you from this podium — is that please for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated COVID-19 shot as soon as you’re eligible to protect yourself, your family and your community.” Jagdish Khubchandani, Professor of Public Health at New Mexico State University tells us, “It is estimated that almost a third or more of the American population has reported confirmed infection with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Others estimate that these numbers should be higher as many did not get tested or may not have reported self-tests to any agency.”
Dr. Khubchandani added, “Given these facts, it is highly likely that the majority of the American population was infected and the vast majority of people got over COVID disease and symptoms within a few days to weeks of getting infected. The most common symptoms noted so far have been loss of taste and smell, headache, sore throat, fever and chills, fatigue, and shortness of breath. However, a plethora of new studies have found that some people may have long lasting symptoms indicating past COVID-19 infection (i.e., long COVID) and for some of these individuals, there will be an increased risk of serious health outcomes (e.g., stroke, heart attack, etc.).” Many times, COVID symptoms are similar to the flu and without a proper test, it can be difficult to differentiate the two, but there are a few signs that point to COVID. Dr. Khubchandani says, “There is a long list of non-specific symptoms that may originate suddenly due to long COVID or past infections with COVID-19 virus. These may range from menstrual abnormalities, diarrhea, rashes, nausea, hair or skin problems, etc.” Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
The CDC says, “Post-COVID conditions are associated with a spectrum of physical, social, and psychological consequences, as well as functional limitations that can present substantial challenges to patient wellness and quality of life.”
Dr. Khubchandani explains, “There is little international consensus on diagnosis, definition, or treatment guidelines for long COVID. For example, according to the CDC, “some people who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience long-term effects from their infection, known as post-COVID conditions (PCC) or long COVID”. In contrast, a clinical and working definition proposed by the World Health Organization suggests that “Long COVID-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed infection, usually 3 months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms that last for at least 2 months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.”
One can think about the past two years and recall if they had a flu like illness with fever followed by cough (which is opposite to flu, where cough may start first) and loss of taste or smell. Still, there is no way to know if you were infected unless you had a confirmed test. There are some symptoms that can be related to past COVID infections such as neurological, respiratory/cardiovascular or GI issues. These symptoms may occur even in those who had mild infection or were never hospitalized for COVID-19.”
The CDC states, “People with post-COVID conditions can have a wide range of symptoms that can last more than four weeks or even months after infection. Sometimes the symptoms can even go away or come back again. Post-COVID conditions may not affect everyone the same way. People with post-COVID conditions may experience health problems from different types and combinations of symptoms happening over different lengths of time. Most patients’ symptoms slowly improve with time. However, for some people, post-COVID conditions can last weeks, months, or longer after COVID-19 illness and can sometimes result in disability. People who experience post-COVID conditions most commonly report: Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life.
Dr. Khubchandani adds, “Getting tired too soon or being constantly fatigued in a way that interferes with daily life could be long COVID symptoms. Especially, if these symptoms get worse after physical or mental effort and if you also have a higher body temperature. These symptoms are accompanied by others below as fatigue and weakness are related to function of other body parts affected by COVID-19 infection.”
Another sign that indicates you’ve had COVID is, “Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath,” the CDC states. According Dr. Khubchandani, “As with fatigue and weakness, breathing problems may commonly accompany those symptoms. Not being able to breathe properly may cause lower oxygen supply to the body causing weakness and constant fatigue. Especially, when it is well known that COVID-19 infections affect our lungs to varying degrees among individuals. For some individuals, heart related problems may include chest pain/discomfort, increased heart rate, palpitations, blood pressure changes, cardiomyopathy, or inflammatory heart conditions to varying degrees.”
John Hopkins Medicine states, “For people who have had COVID-19, lingering COVID-19 heart problems can complicate their recovery. Some of the symptoms common in coronavirus “long-haulers,” such as palpitations, dizziness, chest pain and shortness of breath, may be due to heart problems — or, just from having been ill with COVID-19… Coronavirus infection also affects the inner surfaces of veins and arteries, which can cause blood vessel inflammation, damage to very small vessels and blood clots, all of which can compromise blood flow to the heart or other parts of the body.”
The CDC says the following symptoms can happen as a result of COVID.
–”Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
–Dizziness when you stand up (lightheadedness)
–Change in smell or taste
–Depression or anxiety
People with post-COVID conditions may develop or continue to have symptoms that are hard to explain and manage. Clinical evaluations and results of routine blood tests, chest x-rays, and electrocardiograms may be normal. The symptoms are similar to those reported by people with ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome) and other poorly understood chronic illnesses that may occur after other infections. People with these unexplained symptoms may be misunderstood by their healthcare providers, which can result in a long time for them to get a diagnosis and receive appropriate care or treatment.”
Dr. Khubchandani explains, “Along with the initial symptoms of loss of taste and smell, and brain fog, several others can emerge over time in people with long COVID. These can range from depression and anxiety to cognitive impairment, difficulty concentrating, hearing and sleep problems, dizziness and visual abnormalities, seizures and pins-and-needles feelings, to strokes and dementia.”
Dr. Khubchandani says, “Lingering headaches along with joint and muscle pain, chest and abdominal pain are a few examples of widespread pain that may indicate long COVID due to past infection if there are no other abnormalities found on testing or if there are no other chronic diseases and all of these pain symptoms have started within the past year.”
“People reporting muscle and joint pain during and after having COVID-19 typically report it in their back and shoulders,” said Kristine Cottone, a physical therapist at OSF HealthCare. “But exactly when that pain begins, how severe it is and how long it lasts really varies by the individual. Since it’s only been a couple years since the start of the pandemic, there haven’t been many studies done yet on this topic.”
Research also has yet to determine:
The source of this pain
The percentage of people with COVID-19 who experience it
Whether particular demographics, such as age and gender, are impacted more than others.
“While COVID itself could be the source, some cases could just be from spending a lot of time sitting and laying down while sick with COVID. Right now, we just don’t know,” Kristine said. “Our practice has seen a number of patients with these symptoms, but it hasn’t been a large number.” 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.