A Covid Infection Can Feel Different Every Time

You have a preview view of this article while we are checking your access. When we have confirmed access, the full article content will load.

Cases are rising across the United States. Here’s what to know about how symptoms of an infection can shift.

A man lies back on a couch among pillows. He rubs his eyes and face.
Credit...Getty Images

July 11, 2024Updated 12:06 p.m. ET

By this point in the Covid-19 pandemic, most people have had at least one brush with the virus. Those of us who have been infected again (and again) may think we know the drill.

But symptoms can vary from one infection to the next. The virus has felt like an entirely different illness each time I’ve tested positive: The first go-round, a fever flattened me. Once, I had barely any symptoms. The worst infection left me wrung-out on my couch, so exhausted I had to strain to pay attention to a podcast.

“No two Covid infections really have behaved the same,” said Dr. Joseph Khabbaza, a pulmonary and critical care doctor at Cleveland Clinic.

Generally speaking, the more immunity people build up from vaccination or infections, the milder symptoms of subsequent infections tend to be. But for an individual, there is no guarantee that a second infection will be less severe than the first.

That’s partly because the virus has changed, developing into new variants. If you’re reinfected, that means the virus has evolved enough to slip past your immune defenses, said Dr. Davey Smith, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Diego.

Many Covid symptoms have stayed the same since 2020: fever, sore throat, coughing. But some have shifted. It used to be common for people to lose their sense of taste and smell when they got sick, for example, but that now seems to happen less frequently. Early in the pandemic, Dr. Khabbaza said, people would tell him that their Covid infections felt like nothing they had experienced before. Now, he said, patients often think they have a cold, and are shocked when they test positive.

Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.

Thank you for your patience while we verify access.

Already a subscriber? Log in.

Want all of The Times? Subscribe.


Related stories
1 week ago - COVID cases and hospitalizations rise in L.A. County — and some of those recently reinfected with the FLiRT variants are finding the latest bout the worst yet.
5 days ago - Those infected by COVID FLiRT variants share their most troubling symptoms  PennLiveAs COVID cases rise across Bay Area, doctors share ways to avoid new FLiRT variant  KGO-TVNew COVID-19 variant growing in Tennessee. What to know about...
1 week ago - Those who treat and research long COVID warn that viral persistence and reactivation are real risks for some patients.
3 weeks ago - COVID summer guide: How to navigate symptoms, variants and vaccines this season amid rising cases  Yahoo LifeCOVID summer wave grows, especially in West, with new variant LB.1 on the rise  CBS NewsCOVID Is Surging Right Now. Here's What...
3 weeks ago - COVID Is Surging Right Now. Here's What Alarms Doctors The Most.  HuffPostCOVID summer wave grows, especially in West, with new variant LB.1 on the rise  CBS NewsVirginia Department of Health weighs in on COVID summer surge
Other stories
3 minutes ago - Gastrointestinal issues are common but overlooked symptom of COVID, study finds  The HillView Full Coverage on Google News
3 minutes ago - Big Think Business columnist Eric Markowitz prefaces his new series on long-term thinking with the experience that almost cut his life short.
3 minutes ago - A top federal drug official is calling for the government to move “away from criminalization” under the drug war, saying that the country’s failure to offer drug treatment to incarcerated people only exacerbates the ongoing opioid...
3 minutes ago - Visual hallucinations in Parkinson’s disease are linked to significant cholinergic deficiencies in the left ventral visual stream and left superior temporal lobe, highlighting potential targets for treatment.
3 minutes ago - 5 high-sugar fruits that diabetics must avoid  The Times of India8 dry fruits to avoid if you have diabetes  Firstpost7 high-sugar fruits diabetes patients must avoid  MoneycontrolThese are the foods to eat (and limit) if you have...