What are the symptoms of long covid, the extended illness caused by coronavirus
London, April 4, 2021 (AltAfrica)-Long COVID is a condition wherein people continue to experience COVID-19 symptoms for longer than usual after initially contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source explain that some people may experience long-term effects of COVID-19, whether they required hospitalization or not.
Long COVID – as it is being called – has been affecting some of the earliest COVID-19 sufferers since the first few months of 2020.
Here, we look at what the symptoms of long COVID are, how it has affected people’s lives, how many are suffering, what treatments there are and how it could affect the economy.
Symptoms vary from person to person, but many who experience them didn’t need hospital treatment or were even tested for their initial COVID-19 illness. Some may have even been asymptomatic.
Some people’s COVID-19 symptoms continue while others see them subside, only to then experience new issues weeks after they thought they had recovered. Many have described the symptoms as coming and going over the past months.
A 2020 surveyTrusted Source by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that it may take weeks for COVID-19 symptoms to resolve and for people to return to their usual state of health. This is also true for young adults with no chronic medical conditions.
In contrast, over 90% of people discharged from the hospital with influenza usually recover within 2 weeks.
Mounting evidenceTrusted Source suggests that many people may continue to experience symptoms related to COVID-19 long after their initial infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Although it is still unclear how many people have experienced long COVID, data from the COVID Symptom Study app suggest that 1 in 10 people with the illness experience symptoms for 3 weeks or longer.
Data from the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics found similar results, with roughly 1 in 10 respondents who tested positive for COVID-19 exhibiting symptoms lasting for a period of 12 weeks or longer.
This means that across the world, there may be more than 5 million casesTrusted Source of long COVID.
One 2021 studyTrusted Source found that more than three-quarters of COVID-19 patients in a hospital in Wuhan, China, still had at least one symptom 6 months after their discharge from the hospital.
This is consistent with a 2020 study from Italy that found that 87.4%Trusted Source of COVID-19 patients reported experiencing at least one symptom 2 months after their discharge from the hospital.
A 2020 Swiss study also notes that as many as 1 in 3 people with milder cases COVID-19 were still experiencing symptoms after 6 weeks.
Using a statistical model, a preprint 2020 study found that long COVID is more likely to occur in older adults, people with a higher body mass index (BMI), and females.
It also notes that individuals who experience more than five symptoms during the first week of illness are more likely to develop long COVID.
These are some of the symptoms reported.
- shortness of breath
- joint pain
- chest pain
People may also experience:
- brain fog, wherein they find it more difficult to think clearly and focus
- muscle pain
- fever, which may come and go
- heart palpitations, or a feeling of the heart pounding
People may also develop long-term complications that affect the organs. These complications are less common but may include:
- inflammation of the heart muscle
- abnormal lung function
- severe kidney injury
- a rash
- hair loss
- problems with smell and taste
- sleep issues
- memory and concentration difficulties
- mood changes
There is currently no cure. Because there are so many symptoms, and they differ from person to person, and because long COVID is new, it is difficult for scientists to create a cure.
What can I do to help my fatigue?
There are plenty of things you can do help your fatigue, including getting yourself into a routine and slowly getting more active.
For more tips on how to manage post-viral fatigue after having COVID-19, visit the Royal College of Occupational Therapists’ website.
You can also read about spoons theory, which is a way to allocate your energy (spoons) to your daily tasks. This might also help your family and friends understand how your fatigue affects you.
Remember, you can also use breathing techniques to help you do things if you get breathless when you’re more active
When you feel ready to be more active
Being ill with coronavirus can mean you’re inactive and lose muscle strength, particularly in your legs. At first, you’ll need plenty of rest.
As you begin to feel better, you can start to be a bit more active, but don’t push yourself too hard. Try to do little and often.
You could exercise when you’re in bed. Try moving your legs, circling your ankles and punching your arms up in the air and out in front of you. Moving to sit on the edge of the bed is also exercise at this stage.
If you’re ready, get out of bed and move around for a few minutes. As your symptoms improve and you have more energy, you could gradually increase your activity. But if you are too breathless to speak, slow down until your breathing improves. Try not to not get so breathless that you have to stop immediately. Remember to pace yourself.
Start to do your usual daily activities gradually and slowly to strengthen your muscles – and to improve your mental health. This animation from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy explains what you can expect when you’re recovering from COVID-19.
Speak to your doctor about getting referred to a respiratory physiotherapist or post-COVID rehab to help you with exercise as you recover. If you have no long-term conditions, being active will also help with your breathlessness. You might find you get out of breath when you’re active – this is not harmful, it’s normal.
If you have a long-term condition, especially one affecting your heart or lungs, speak to your health care professional about how you can safely exercise, as well as how to tell the difference between Long COVID and your other condition.
As you do more, you may find you get more breathless. This is normal. By moving your body, you can make your breathing muscles stronger, and all your muscles will start to use oxygen more efficiently. This means your breathlessness will decrease or get easier.
Additional info from British Lung Foundation, Sky News