In the early days of the pandemic, we believed that once an individual initially recovered from a COVID-19 infection, the worst was over. However, over the last many months, researchers, doctors, and health experts realized that for some people, the most crippling manifestations of the coronavirus occur after the initial infection has passed. Post-COVID Syndrome, "Long Hauler's Syndrome, or long-term COVID are the names given to a mysterious condition that can occur many months after 'recovering' from COVID-19," William Li, MD, physician, scientist and author of the New York Times bestseller Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself tells Eat This, Not That! Health. Read on to see if you have the symptoms—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
You May Have Blood Vessel Damage and Inflammation
Although Post-COVID Syndrome has been identified, we are still struggling to understand all the hows, whys, and whens. "While this syndrome is still not well understood, what is clear is that the condition involves damage to blood vessels, inflammation, and damage to nerves, known as neuropathy."
One of the most perplexing aspects of long haulers is that many of them suffered initial infections that were seemingly mild and required zero medical treatment. However, weeks to months later, they struggle to function in everyday life.
You May Have Persistent Fatigue or Exhaustion
One of the more debilitating symptoms of long hauler syndrome is extreme exhaustion. "Many viruses (e.g.mono and dozens of others) can trip a critical almond-sized circuit breaker in the brain called the hypothalamus," says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, board-certified internist nationally known expert in the fields of chronic fatigue syndrome and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic!. "This leaves people barely or nonfunctional. They may barely be able to work, or even be housebound," explains Dr. Teitelbaum. "The virus can directly suppress the cellular energy furnaces called the mitochondria, leaving you feeling wiped out."
You May Have Shortness of Breath
While shortness of breath is one of the more common symptoms of an initial COVID-19 infection, it is also a defining sign of long hauler syndrome. "There's no more infection, but you still have difficulty breathing at times," explains Dr. Lil. "Early studies have revealed blood vessel loss in the lungs as one explanation."
Your Heart Is Racing
"Many long haulers report irregularities in their heart, including the sensation of their heart racing. The coronavirus can infect the heart and damage its tiniest blood vessels, but some people experience their heart rate suddenly increases," Dr. Li explains.
You Feel Dizzy and Weak
Dr. Li explains that an increase in heart rate can leave you feeling dizzy and weak. "The cause of this is unknown but may involve both nerves and blood vessels," he says.
You May Have Insomnia
Sleep disturbances are also common symptoms of long COVID. "This includes difficulty falling and staying asleep, as well as waking unrefreshed," says Dr. Teitelbaum. "This is because the hypothalamic circuit breaker controls sleep."
You May Have Brain Fog
Brain fog, a term commonly used by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, in association with long term COVID, is another mysterious manifestation. Dr. Teitelbaum explains it as having "difficulty with short term memory, as well as word finding or substitution. This occurs for many reasons, including altered brain blood flow from the virus and overactivity of brain cells called microglial activation," he says.
You Might Have a Cough
Like shortness of breath, a persistent cough can come from lung or heart inflammation from the virus, claims Dr. Teitelbaum. "This normally heals over time, and recovery can be accelerated with natural therapies," he says.
You Might Develop Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
If you have the "paradoxical combination of exhaustion and insomnia despite being more than 12 weeks after the onset of COVID-19 symptoms," you can assume you are a long hauler. "Called post-viral Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), this occurs in about 15% of cases," Dr. Teitelbaum says.
You'll Potentially Receive A Positive Antibody Test
While antibody tests aren't flawless, and can rear false negatives, in many cases they can detect antibodies of the virus and confirm that you were, in fact, infected. If you believe you are a long hauler, you should contact your physician to discuss treatment options.
How to Survive This Pandemic Without Getting Post-COVID Syndrome
As for yourself, follow Fauci's fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, 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.