21 Subtle Signs You've Already Had COVID

Leah Groth
·10-min read

Could you have had COVID-19 and not even realized it? Possibly. "The majority of people who contract the coronavirus will experience mild symptoms, the most common being a high temperature and a new, dry and continuous cough. A smaller percentage of people will experience more severe symptoms," explains Dr. Daniel Atkinson, GP Clinical Lead at Treated.com.

However, because the coronavirus actually has a spectrum of symptoms—some so mild they are barely noticeable or easily confused with something else—it can go unnoticed or undiagnosed. Read on to discover the 21 subtle signs you've already had coronavirus, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

1

Runny Nose, Sore Throat, and Congestion

Sick woman blowing her runny nose in paper tissue at home.
Sick woman blowing her runny nose in paper tissue at home.

Dr. Atkinson maintains that the trifecta of a runny nose, sore throat, and congestion, can signify a mild case of COVID-19. However, because it "sounds, and likely feels, a lot like the common cold, or a hay fever allergy," many people likely brushed them off.

2

Reduced, or Loss of, Sense of Taste and Smell

female cook standing at the hob in her apron tasting her food in the saucepan with a grimace as she finds it distasteful and unpalatable
female cook standing at the hob in her apron tasting her food in the saucepan with a grimace as she finds it distasteful and unpalatable

Some people who experience a loss of their taste and smell may have contracted the coronavirus. "It's a symptom that might accompany really mild symptoms, like those not dissimilar to the common cold—runny nose, congestion and sore throat—but it can also accompany the very mild symptoms, such as muscle aches, fatigue, fever and a continuous cough," Dr. Atkinson points out. While it is not fully understood yet why some people report experiencing a loss in taste and smell, it is thought that in the majority of cases the sense returns after no more than six weeks, he explains.

3

Reduced Appetite

Displeased young woman doesn't want to eat her breakfast
Displeased young woman doesn't want to eat her breakfast

Dr. Atkinson adds that when your body is infected by a virus like COVID-19, your appetite can become reduced. "If this is accompanied by a loss of taste and smell it can make wanting to eat or drink really difficult," he explains. "It's really important to drink plenty of fluids to help your body combat the virus and minimize the symptoms and even if you don't feel like it, try to eat something, even if it's just a snack or a small meal."

4

Breathlessness

Asian woman having difficulty breathing in bedroom at night
Asian woman having difficulty breathing in bedroom at night

As novel coronavirus is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, things like coughing, a sore throat and breathlessness can occur as symptoms, explains Dr. Atkinson. While the most common is the dry, continuous cough often reported on, if you're feeling breathless—more so than usual—and if it happens when you're at rest, then it may be cause for concern and you should (or should have) sought medical advice straight away.

5

Tiredness and Fatigue

When your body is fighting any kind of infection, it uses up energy. "Most people will feel tired or lethargic so won't be exercising or going to work when they're ill but some fitness enthusiasts insist on continuing with exercise to try and battle on through," explains Dr. Atkinson. This is not usually helpful, the body needs time to rest physically whilst the immune system does the work so take a break from the circuit training for a few days. "You should not ignore your body's signals," he adds. "Resting and sleeping while you're unwell is an essential part of your recovery."

6

"COVID Toes"

Man's Hand Holding Magnifying Glass In Front Of His Feet
Man's Hand Holding Magnifying Glass In Front Of His Feet

Dermatologists have observed purple lesions on the feet and hands of some patients with COVID-19 infection, explains Caroline Nelson, MD, a Yale Medicine dermatologist. These lesions are most often found in otherwise asymptomatic children and young adults, and may be itchy or painful.

While the association is still under investigation, this finding is often called "COVID toes." Importantly, severe COVID-19 infection may also increase the tendency of the blood to clot, depriving the skin of blood flow and leading to purple skin lesions. Subtle differences in appearance provide doctors with clues to differentiate causes of purple skin lesions associated with COVID-19 infection.

7

Pink Eye

If you have recently suffered from conjunctivitis, a.k.a. pink eye, it could have been due to COVID-19. "Several reports suggest that SARS-CoV-2 can cause a mild follicular conjunctivitis otherwise indistinguishable from other viral causes, and possibly be transmitted by aerosol contact with conjunctiva," the American Academy of Ophthalmology recently said in a statement. This is why some experts are recommending contact lens wearers to switch to glasses during the pandemic.

8

Diarrhea or Nausea

Suffering From Abdominal Pain Touching Aching Stomach Lying On Couch At Home
Suffering From Abdominal Pain Touching Aching Stomach Lying On Couch At Home

According to the CDC, "Some persons with COVID-19 have experienced gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and nausea prior to developing fever and lower respiratory tract signs and symptoms." In fact, a study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology found that digestive issues were more common in those with COVID-19 than previously thought, and that up to half of patients diagnosed complained about one of these symptoms.

9

A Fever Spike

fever
fever

Did you have a fever that came and went so quickly you brushed it off? Well, it could have been COVID-19. According to the World Health Organization, 87.9% of 55,924 laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus reported a fever—making it by far the most common symptom.

10

Muscle Pain

back view of man sitting on bed and suffering from back pain
back view of man sitting on bed and suffering from back pain

Perhaps you wrote off those body aches, pains, and soreness due to overexertion. Or maybe you thought you had the flu. However, according to the CDC muscle pain is a symptom of coronavirus.

RELATED: This is the #1 Way You'll Get COVID, According to Doctors

11

COVID Rashes

Young man with skin allergy
Young man with skin allergy

"The skin is often a window into a person's health and may show signs of COVID-19 infection," explains Dr. Nelson. Rashes may present as small blisters, morbilliform ("measles-like") exanthems (many, often symmetric, pink-to-red bumps that can merge together), and hives (itchy red wheels on the skin). Purple skin lesions reported in patients with COVID-19 range from itchy to painful bumps on the hands and feet ("COVID toes") to angulated areas of skin injury from lack of blood flow.

"It is important to note that these skin signs are non-specific, meaning that they can be associated with other infections, systemic disorders, and medication reactions. It is important to seek medical advice from your physician," Dr. Nelson says.

12

Disorientation

An old man touches his head. Headache. Alzheimer's disease
An old man touches his head. Headache. Alzheimer's disease

Some COVID-19 victims suffer from disorientation and confusion. One study published in JAMA found that over a third of hospitalized patients in Wuhan, China showed neurologic manifestations of the disease — including loss of balance or coordination, loss of consciousness, and seizures.

13

A Dry Cough

woman cough sneeze in elbow
woman cough sneeze in elbow

A dry cough is one of the defining symptoms of COVID-19, according to the WHO. What is the difference between a wet and dry cough? As the name implies, a wet cough will likely produce mucus or phlegm, while a dry cough is, well, dry.

14

The Chills or Repeated Shaking

The CDC made six new additions to their official list of COVID-19 symptoms. Amongst them was not only "chills" but "repeated shaking with chills." The symptom generally goes hand-in-hand with a fever.

RELATED: Dr. Fauci Says Most People Did This Before Catching COVID

15

Throbbing Headache

Close up Portrait of young woman with headache
Close up Portrait of young woman with headache

If you feel a jackhammer in your head, it may be COVID-19. "Findings from an observational study of more than 100 patients show headache onset may occur during the presymptomatic and/or symptomatic phases of COVID-19 progression and sometimes mimics tension or migraine headaches," reports Optometry Times.

16

Chest Pain

Mature woman having heart attack on stairs, outdoors
Mature woman having heart attack on stairs, outdoors

"Some people say they continue to experience symptoms months after infection," reports Heart.org. "In doctor visits and on social media groups, a growing number of patients report lingering symptoms ranging from mild issues, such as continued loss of taste or smell, to more serious ones, such as heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, cognitive difficulties or recurring fevers. Whether these symptoms eventually resolve or whether they signal permanent damage from the virus remains unknown."

17

Loss of Speech or Movement

Close-up portrait of charming old lady, covering her mouth with hands
Close-up portrait of charming old lady, covering her mouth with hands

"People of all ages who experience fever and/or cough associated with difficulty breathing/shortness of breath, chest pain/pressure, or loss of speech or movement should seek medical attention immediately," reports WHO.

RELATED: Unhealthiest Habits on the Planet, According to Doctors

18

You Become Forgetful

Memory Disorder
Memory Disorder

"Our experience with previous forms of coronaviruses suggest that in the long-term patients may develop depression, insomnia, Parkinson's disease, memory loss, or accelerated aging in the brain," says Dr. Majid Fotuhi, MD, Ph.D., who is the medical director of NeuroGrow Brain Fitness Center in Northern Virginia and an affiliate staff at Johns Hopkins Medicine. "For those recovering from COVID-19, I recommend regular exercise, eating a heart healthy diet, reducing stress, and improving sleep; these are critical ways patients can rejuvenate their brain and minimize having poor outcomes in the future."

19

You Were Sick Early in the Year

Woman Wearing Winter Hat and Gloves Blowing Her Sore Nose with a Tissue
Woman Wearing Winter Hat and Gloves Blowing Her Sore Nose with a Tissue

If you were sick in January or February and brushed it off as the flu or a cold, it could have actually been COVID-19. While the first known case of coronavirus in the United States was reported in early January, community spread didn't appear to be an issue—or so we thought. In fact, it wasn't until late February that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in a patient in California who had no known contact with anyone who had been diagnosed with the virus or no travel history to an outbreak area.

However, recently it was confirmed that there were two coronavirus-related deaths as early as February in California. Since the COVID outbreak took place during peak cold and flu season, it's quite possible that you were battling coronavirus and didn't know it.

20

You Spent Time in a Hotspot

Group of party people - men and women - drinking beer in a pub or bar
Group of party people - men and women - drinking beer in a pub or bar

If you spent some time in any of the early coronavirus hotspots—specifically indoor restaurants, bars, places of worship, or offices—and felt under the weather, it could have been COVID-19. Last week WHO added many of the places or situations where the virus had the potential to spread in an airborne manner involved enclosed spaces where people were likely to be "shouting, talking, or singing."

"In these outbreaks, aerosol transmission, particularly in these indoor locations where there are crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces where infected persons spend long periods of time with others, cannot be ruled out," the WHO confessed.

21

Be Concerned if You Were Around Others Who Tested Positive

Man sitting on the bed wrapped in a blanket feeling sick while girl hugging him and trying to help him.
Man sitting on the bed wrapped in a blanket feeling sick while girl hugging him and trying to help him.

If you were around other people who tested positive for COVID-19, there is a good chance you had it too. According to research, an overwhelming amount of people are asymptomatic carriers. In most of the study groups, they were living in the same area as others who tested positive. So, if someone in your house was sick, but you never showed symptoms, there is a good chance you had it, too.

22

There is Only One Way to Check if You've Already Had Coronavirus

A mature Caucasian man in a clinical setting being swabbed by a healthcare worker in protective garb to determine if he has contracted the coronavirus or COVID-19.
A mature Caucasian man in a clinical setting being swabbed by a healthcare worker in protective garb to determine if he has contracted the coronavirus or COVID-19.

Dr. Atkinson points out that the only way to truly know if you had COVID-19 is by using an antibody test, a test that confirms whether or not someone had been infected with the virus in the past. Although note that no test is 100% accurate, including these—and some people who have had COVID-19 may show no antibodies. Call your doctor to ask for one—or if you think you currently have COVID-19.

And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.