Barbie Urteaga had difficulty breathing even long before the arrival of the coronavirus.

"I was diagnosed with adult onset asthma after the birth of my first child," Urteaga said.

What You Need To Know

  • Doctors said because COVID-19 symptoms can be milder in fully vaccinated patients, they can be more easily confused with allergies or the common cold

  • While some COVID-19 symptoms like runny nose and headache overlap with allergies, doctors say fever and body aches are more likely to be COVID-19 or another infection

  • Also, consider whether you've been around people who are sick

  • Healthcare providers suggest when in doubt, get tested, so positive patients can get treatment sooner

Then, on top of all that, in June 2020, she came down with COVID-19.

"I was on a leave of absence for eight months. [I had] COVID for 10 days with every symptom that you can think of," she said.

Coincidentally, Urteaga works as a respiratory therapist at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center.

"I even still suffer to this day, some brain fog, hard to remember a lot of things," Urteaga said.

It has since become harder for her to breathe, which is why she has regular appointments with an allergist and pulmonologist. Urteaga said she gets about three asthma attacks per year and she is still recovering from her latest one in September.

"Because I had COVID, my lungs just aren’t to par anymore. I have to be careful because every time I do have an exacerbation, it’s a long recovery," she said.

As more people are vaccinated, Dr. Thomas Yadegar said those who develop breakthrough cases tend to have milder symptoms, which pose their own set of challenges.

"It’s commonly confused with 'Oh, I just have allergies,' or 'I work too hard,'" Yadegar said. "The typical symptoms for patients that have breakthrough infections are headache and maybe a runny nose or a sore throat and those are again very common symptoms in patients that we see suffer from allergies as well.”

He does recommend keeping an eye out for fever or body aches, which he said more likely point to COVID-19 or another infection and consider whether you have been around other sick people. 

"If there’s people who are sick around you, then you know that you know it’s probably more likely you have COVID or an upper respiratory infection," Yadegar said.

Ultimately, if a person develops symptoms, doctors recommend being tested as soon as possible so those who test positive can be treated sooner.

"This virus is not done with us so we need to keep our guards up, and we need to keep fighting,” he said.

Especially Urteaga, who is now extra aware of every breath.

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