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6 Ways to Tell If You've Already Had COVID

It’s quite possible you battled coronavirus without even knowing it.

Eight months into the pandemic and there have been over 6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. However, according to one study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, the actual number of infections could be anywhere from six to 24 times that number. Therefore, even if you didn't receive a confirmation that you were infected with COVID, there is a decent chance you had it. Here are 6 ways to tell if you've already had coronavirus, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss the full list of Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.


Your Antibody Test Came Back Positive

Positive test result by using rapid test device for COVID-19, novel coronavirus 2019

The most accurate way of determining if you have been infected with COVID-19 is via an antibody test—and even then it's not 100%. According to the CDC, the tests check your blood by looking for antibodies, which may tell you if you had a past infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. "Antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections and can provide protection against getting that disease again (immunity)," they explain. However, antibody tests are not flawless. For example, a positive test could mean you have antibodies from an infection with a different virus from the coronavirus family. If you test negative, it could be because you are still battling the virus and haven't produced antibodies. "Some people may take even longer to develop antibodies, and some people who are infected may not ever develop antibodies," the CDC points out. 


You Were Exposed to the Virus and Experienced Symptoms

Sick woman with headache sitting under the blanket

During the first major wave of the virus, testing was limited, so it's likely you didn't get tested even if you suspected you had COVID due to symptoms such as a fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, or loss of sense of smell or taste. However, if you were directly exposed to the virus or spent time in a heavily infected region and experienced any of the common symptoms, there's a really good chance you were battling it. 


You Didn't Experience Symptoms—But Everyone Around You Did

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

If other family members, coworkers, or friends were infected with coronavirus, and you seem to be the only one who remained healthy, it is very likely you were COVID positive but asymptomatic. According to one study, up to 80% of those infected with the virus show no symptoms. Other studies have calculated the number of asymptomatic infections closer to 40%. 


You Experienced a Bizarre Symptom

A woman who touches the soles.

Over the last few months we have learned that COVID-19 can produce some, well, bizarre symptoms. Strange dermatological manifestations, like rashes and COVID toes, digestive issues, pink eye, phantom smells, and unusual heartburn are just a few of the unusual symptoms of the virus that have been reported. 

RELATED: COVID Mistakes You Should Never Make


You Were Unusually Sick Over the Winter


Did you battle a really brutal illness over the winter, but simply write it off as the flu or cold? Maybe you had a cough that just wouldn't quit. Or, a random fever spike. Maybe you couldn't taste food for a few days or weeks. It's possible it was actually COVID. 


You Were Diagnosed With Something Else

Doctor examining chest x-ray film of patient at hospital

You were sick over the winter and tested negative for the flu. Maybe your MD diagnosed you with a respiratory infection, bronchial infection, or pneumonia. It's quite possible it was actually COVID. From January to March, COVID was slowly spreading across the country. However, at that point, only those who had traveled abroad or who were knowingly exposed to the virus were actually being tested. Therefore, many MDs weren't actively considering the virus as a diagnosis. One Yale study found that 30% of actual COVID deaths early in the pandemic may have been classified as something else due to misdiagnosis.


But Even If You've Had It, You May Still Be Able to Get It Again

The riskiest thing a person can touch for COVID-19

Whether you tested positive for coronavirus, received confirmation via an antibody test, or are just 99% sure you have already been infected with COVID-19, you shouldn't let your guard down. Researchers have already identified cases of reinfection around the world, meaning you can be infected with coronavirus more than once. "Having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 may provide protection from getting infected with the virus again. But even if it does, we do not know how much protection the antibodies may provide or how long this protection may last," reminds the CDC. Keep to the fundamentals: wear a mask, socially distance from those who don't live in your home, practice hand hygiene, stay outdoors instead of indoors when possible, and avoid large crowds. As for yourself, stay safe by reading our special report: 13 Ways You're Catching Coronavirus Without Realizing It.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah