If You're More Tired Than Usual, Here's How to Tell If It's COVID
According to doctors, there are a few ways to tell if your fatigue is related to COVID or not.
Between the dropping temperatures, the shorter days, and the stress of the holidays compounding with a pandemic, we totally get it if you're feeling more tired than usual lately. In classic 2020 fashion, if you can't keep your eyes open, your mind probably darts right to assuming you've caught COVID. Although tiredness is one of the common symptoms of the virus, your fatigue could also be a sign of various other common illnesses that may also need medical attention. To ease your mind, and to help you figure out if it's time to get a COVID test, doctors say there are a few key things to look out for. Here are five indicators that your tiredness could be a symptom of COVID, and for more red flags to be aware of, check out This Is How to Tell If Your Cough Is COVID, Doctors Say.
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Getting more sleep doesn't help.
Before deciphering whether your tiredness is a symptom of COVID, you should first identify if it's true fatigue or just sleepiness. "If your tiredness is from sleepiness or drowsiness, then falling asleep will mostly make you feel better," says family medicine physician Abisola Olulade, MD. "People that have fatigue will often not feel better even after sleeping." If getting a few consecutive nights of solid sleep doesn't improve your fatigue, it may be time to seek out a COVID test. And for another pair of key indicators, check out If You Have These 2 Subtle Symptoms, There's a Good Chance You Have COVID.
Your tiredness came on suddenly.
If you've been getting progressively more tired lately, it's probably not COVID related. "Most causes of fatigue that are non-COVID related happen chronically over time—[meaning] weeks to months—and not suddenly," says Olulade. "Typically, with COVID, it will happen suddenly." So if you've felt excessive fatigue come on abruptly, you should consult your physician. And if you're worried about another common symptom, check out This Is How to Tell If Your Headache Is COVID, Study Says.
You have other common COVID symptoms.
Without the presentation of other COVID symptoms, it's unlikely your tiredness is related to the virus. "It's unusual to have fatigue as an isolated symptom of COVID, although it's certainly not impossible," says Olulade.
Physician and ear, nose, and throat surgeon Gan Eng Cern, MD, adds that "your fatigue will be a cause for concern if it's supplemented with other symptoms such as coughing, loss of taste and smell, and shortness of breath." And for more up-to-date information on COVID delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
You've traveled or been around a lot of people.
There's a higher chance that your tiredness is a COVID symptom "if you've recently been around other people or traveled to a COVID-19 hotspot," explains Gan. Do a quick inventory of who you've seen and where you've been lately to assess the likelihood of having contracted the virus. And for more on where the pandemic is getting worse, check out This Is How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.
There's no other explanation.
Even if your fatigue isn't a symptom of COVID, it could be related to another illness you should get checked out. "If you snore or if you have nighttime awakening, then this is a sign that you may have sleep apnea and if you feel tired during the day, then this is more likely related to that," says Olulade. "If you have heavy periods, then your tiredness may be from low iron and not from COVID. Also, if you have low thyroid levels, then your tiredness could be from that."
Olulade also points out that "some mental health issues such as depression can also cause chronic fatigue." Before talking with your doctor, take some time to gain a solid understanding of how you are feeling so they can better help you find out what's wrong. And for a tip on how to tell if you've come in contact with COVID, check out This Is the Easiest Way to Tell If You've Been Exposed to COVID.