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Did I Have It and Not Know It?

The COVID-19 virus may have been around longer than we originally thought. So people may have had the virus and recovered from it without knowing. Some telltale signs could indicate that you’re one of those people.

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A ‘Bad Cold’

It’s not uncommon to get a cold during the winter. But if you had one in late 2019 or early 2020, there’s a chance your cold might have actually been COVID-19. One way to know the difference is that COVID can stick around 2 weeks or longer, while a cold typically lasts only a few days. And unlike a cold, COVID could have caused a fever and made it hard for you to breathe.

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Shortness of Breath

This isn’t typically a symptom of a cold or the flu, but feeling like you can’t breathe is common with COVID-19. You may have thought you had bronchitis, which COVID-19 can cause. Or it may have felt like anxiety or a panic attack. But with COVID, shortness of breath lasts longer than a panic attack. It also comes with flu-like symptoms. 

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Persistent Cough

If you had a dry cough that took a long time to go away, it could have been a symptom of COVID-19. It would have been different from a cough caused by a cold. It would have started mildly, but then got worse during the next 5 to 7 days.

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Red, Watery Eyes

Throughout the pandemic, we've been told to wash our hands often and avoid touching our face. One reason for this is that COVID-19 can affect your eyes. If you had conjunctivitis (pinkeye), watering eyes, or blurred vision, it might have been caused by the virus.

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Heart Palpitations or Chest Pain

COVID-19 can affect your heart too. It can cause it to beat fast or flutter, or pound. You may have had tightness in your chest. All of these things can happen even after the virus clears your body. Episodes like this can be noticeable for up to 2 weeks in mild cases or for 6 weeks in more serious ones. 

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Extreme Fatigue

Feeling really tired is a common symptom of COVID-19. So if you had that kind of extreme fatigue that didn’t get better with plenty of sleep, it could have been a sign of the virus. The feeling can come back again days and sometimes weeks later.

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Loss of Smell or Taste

If foods and drinks seemed to taste different than usual (or had no taste), or you weren’t able to pick up on odors for a couple of weeks, you could've been infected with the virus. Nearly 80% of people who test positive have this issue, and it’s usually a sign of a mild case.

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Need to Know? Get an Antibodies Test

Antibodies are proteins your body makes to help fight off an infection. The only way to know for certain if you’ve had COVID-19 is to have your blood tested to see if you have the antibodies that fight the virus. If you do have them, scientists aren’t sure how well they'll protect you from getting it again. But some studies show that people who have those antibodies are less likely to get COVID again.

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Did I Have a Variant?

This change to the virus (called a mutation) doesn’t seem to affect the symptoms it causes or drastically affect the seriousness of the virus. It looks like the only difference is that the mutation is easier to spread from person to person. The signs of this latest form of COVID-19 are the same as the original. So there’s no easy way to know which strain you had.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 01/22/2021 Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on January 22, 2021

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SOURCES:

British Journal of Ophthalmology: “Ocular Manifestations of a Hospitalised Patient with Confirmed 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease.”

Baton Rouge General: “Could My Winter Cold Have Been Coronavirus?” “Is My Shortness of Breath Anxiety or Coronavirus?”

American Lung Association: “Coronavirus (CoV).”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Coronavirus Symptoms: Frequently Asked Questions.”

American Psychological Association: “How COVID-19 Attacks the Brain.”

American Heart Association: “Months After Infection, Many COVID-19 Patients Can’t Shake Illness,” “What COVID-19 Is Doing To The Heart, Even After Recovery.”

Mayo Clinic: “Unusual Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptoms: What Are They?”

Vanderbilt University Medical Center: “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information for Employees and Patients.”

CDC: “Using Antibody Tests for COVID-19,” “New COVID-19 Variants.”

National Cancer Institute: “SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies Can Protect From Reinfection, NCI Study Suggests.”

Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on January 22, 2021

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.