8 surprising long COVID symptoms

As of today, there's no one treatment for long COVID-19.

It's a complicated illness that can affect multiple areas of the body. Many symptoms can come and go. What's more, one person's long COVID-19 course can look very different from another's.

Here are some common long COVID-19 symptoms:

1. Mood disorders

The COVID-19 illness itself or its effect on the body can cause mental health illness. People have developed depression and anxiety after their COVID-19 infection. For others, their preexisting mood disorder can get worse. Some ICU survivors also experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

2. Sleep issues

COVID-19 survivors may experience insomnia. Some may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Others experience new-onset nightmares. Sleep apnea can be seen as well, sometimes due to weight gain from the prolonged illness.

3. Breathing problems

Breathing is normally an unconscious process – something you do without thinking. Shortness of breath means you're consciously thinking about breathing and having difficulty doing so. Patients can experience shortness of breath after exertion or even at rest. A persistent cough is also a common post COVID-19 symptom.

4. Brain dysfunction, including brain fog

Brain fog (or trouble concentrating) is a common long COVID-19 symptom and may persist for weeks or longer. Symptoms can include inattention, cognitive troubles, fatigue, behavioral troubles, and other neurological symptoms. Less frequently, long COVID-19 can cause chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

5. Heart issues

Long after someone's original infection, they may experience chest tightness or chest pain. Heart issues can also contribute to the post COVID-19 symptoms of lightheadedness, dizziness and vertigo.

Myocarditis or heart inflammation can be seen after COVID-19 infection. Importantly, myocarditis caused by the virus tends to be much more severe than myocarditis caused by the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna). Viral myocarditis is also far more common than vaccine myocarditis.

See how post COVID-19 syndrome can affect your heart.

COVID-19 survivors can also develop a cardiovascular condition called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). A person with this syndrome has an unusually high heart rate after minimal activity, like standing up. 

6. Loss of taste or smell

One alarming symptom of post-COVID syndrome is the loss of taste and smell. The vast majority of people recover their sense of smell in two or three weeks. For a smaller percentage of patients, it may take months.

7. Hair loss

You normally lose hair in small amounts every day. But during an infection, your hair follicles get overstimulated. Then, all at once, many of the hair follicles go to a resting or shedding phase. Hair loss can also happen with other types of infections when fevers are present.

8. Skin rashes

Viruses can affect any part of the body where blood flows, so it's not surprising that it would affect the skin, which has the most blood vessels. Skin rashes can include small bumps, discolored areas or blisters. 

What is long COVID?

Some people recover from COVID-19 quickly, while others have unusual symptoms that last for months. Long COVID-19 is defined as having new or continued symptoms that persist more than 30 days after the original infection.

At this point, the cause of long COVID-19 isn't clear. There are several working theories to explain why long COVID-19 happens. It's an area of ongoing research.

Several names for the condition also exist. Long COVID-19 can also be called:

If you experience COVID-19 symptoms or notice that symptoms linger after the initial infection, the University Health Center can help. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment.