I HAD COVID-19 IN THE PAST
Information on what happens now and how to help other COVID-19 patients recover.
People who have recovered from COVID-19 sometimes struggle to return to their pre-COVID-19 health. Many survivors experience some lingering symptoms. It is not uncommon for those who have had COVID-19 to experience fatigue, difficulty breathing, body aches, or other physical effects for weeks or even months after recovery. But those who have had COVID-19 are in a unique position because their blood contains antibodies that know how to fight the disease. Donating plasma—the liquid part of blood—provides a treatment that may be effective for people who have serious cases of COVID-19. Donating blood lets researchers study how the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 affects the immune system, and could lead to successful prevention and treatment methods in the future.
Commonly reported lingering health issues from COVID-19:
Shortness of breath
“Brain fog”—problems with memory or concentration
Muscle aches and pain
Loss of smell or taste
SHOULD I GET A VACCINE FOR COVID-19 IF I HAVE ALREADY HAD THE DISEASE?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing results from several COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials and has already granted authorization for some of the vaccines to be used on an emergency basis. This means that the FDA has enough data from clinical trials to determine that the vaccines are safe, work well, and should be made available to the public. Additional vaccines are still in the clinical trials pipeline. Now that vaccines have been authorized by the FDA for public use, it is possible that people who have already had COVID-19 will need to take one. Although data show that reinfection by the novel coronavirus is rare, research has not yet determined how long immunity against COVID-19 lasts in people who have had the disease. If you have questions about taking a COVID-19 vaccination when one is available to you, talk to your healthcare provider for advice.
HELP PATIENTS WHO ARE CRITICALLY ILL WITH COVID-19 BY DONATING PLASMA
If you have recovered from COVID-19, you may be able to help save critically ill COVID-19 patients by donating plasma. This type of plasma is called convalescent plasma. Numerous COVID-19 treatments are currently being studied in clinical trials to evaluate their safety and effectiveness, and the FDA has authorized the emergency use of convalescent plasma for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
To be eligible to donate plasma, you must meet all donor eligibility criteria and have documented evidence of COVID-19. In addition, you must be symptom-free for at least 14 days prior to the donation. A negative lab test for COVID-19 is not necessary.
There are many options for donating convalescent plasma for the treatment of critically ill COVID-19 patients.
TESTING AND IMMUNITY
Many people who have had COVID-19 are eager to know whether they can get the disease again, or if they are immune. Previous studies conducted in the `70s and `80s concluded that reinfections are possible with coronaviruses. However, of the millions of patients who have recovered from COVID-19, which is caused by a coronavirus, only a handful have been confirmed as having gotten the disease again. Based on the reported recurrence rate from the early stages of ongoing research, the chances of becoming reinfected appear to be very small.
The human body produces proteins called antibodies to fight infections. An antibody test is a blood test that finds these proteins, and there is such a test that can detect COVID-19 antibodies. This test is used to determine whether patients have had COVID-19 but is typically not used to diagnose the disease. If a test finds that you have antibodies to COVID-19 in your body, you are likely immune from getting the disease again for a certain period. In fact, that is how vaccines work.
People who have recovered from COVID-19 and are not showing new symptoms are advised not to get a test for the disease in the 3 months immediately after their first positive test because they will continue to carry low levels of the virus that can trigger a positive result, even if they no longer have COVID-19. Those who experience new symptoms should be retested for the disease right away.
SHOULD I GET A FLU VACCINE AFTER HAVING COVID-19?
Yes. If you have had COVID-19, it is more important than ever to get a flu vaccine. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get an annual flu vaccine. (There are a few rare exceptions* to this recommendation.) An illness as serious as COVID-19 can leave your immune system compromised for months, making you more vulnerable than ever to get the flu and to have a severe case of flu. A flu shot is your most important defense against this annual viral respiratory infection. Most insurance covers the cost of a flu shot. If you have any questions about your specific medical history and flu vaccines, see your doctor or pharmacist if your pharmacy offers flu shots.
*People with severe, life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine should not receive a flu shot. This might include gelatin, antibiotics, or other ingredients.