How can I recognize if I am experiencing long-term COVID symptoms?
As COVID-19 cases increase, many people are at risk for long COVID
COVID sequelae, also known as post-COVID syndrome, persistent COVID, long COVID or post-COVID, encompass a variety of new, recurrent, or ongoing symptoms that people experience more than four weeks after getting sick from the COVID-19 virus.
Most people who get sick from COVID-19 recover within a few days or weeks. However, some people, who became even mildly ill, may continue to experience long-term effects of COVID long after their initial recovery. In some cases, COVID sequelae can last for months or even years.
The WHO estimates that 15-20% of people who have had COVID-19 may continue to experience symptoms, such as persistent fatigue, shortness of breath, and mental fogginess months after recovery.
According to research from Mayo Clinic, between one and 12 months after experiencing COVID-19, one in five people aged 18 to 64 will have at least one medical condition that could be caused by having had COVID-19. In addition, among people 65 and older, one in four will have at least one medical condition that could be attributed to the Coronavirus.
What are the most common long-term effects of COVID?
Long-term effects of COVID do not affect everyone in the same way. Similarly, these effects can manifest themselves differently in people. Symptoms can affect different parts of the body, such as:
- General: fatigue and fever, joint or muscular pain
- Respiratory: difficulty breathing and coughing
- Cardiac: chest pain and palpitations
- Neurological: difficulty thinking and focusing (mental fog), headaches and problems sleeping (insomnia), dizziness when standing up, loss of smell or taste, depression and anxiety
- Digestive: diarrhea and stomach pain
- Menstrual: menstrual cycle irregularity
For most people, these symptoms improve slowly over time. But for others, symptoms can last for weeks, months or more. Sometimes symptoms are severe enough to cause a disability.
Having had severe COVID increases the risk of COVID long-term effects
It seems that post-COVID syndrome is more frequent in the following cases:
- If you had severe COVID, especially if you were hospitalized or needed intensive medical care
- You had certain illnesses before you got the virus
- You did not get a COVID-19 vaccine
The WHO also explains that people who have had severe COVID may experience damages to the heart, kidneys, skin, and brain.
What can I do if I am experiencing long-term effects of COVID?
To date, there is no specific way to prevent or treat the long-term effects of COVID. If you have symptoms of long COVID, we recommend that you schedule an appointment with your physician for a complete health check-up. We also recommend the following:
- Keep track of the onset of symptoms
- Do not self-medicate
- If you experience any warning signs, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, go to your nearest hospital immediately.
Frequently asked questions about COVID long-term effects
Some of the symptoms are fatigue, headaches, persistent cough, mental fogginess, and insomnia. These symptoms can last for months or years.
Not necessarily. There are several studies that have reported that people who suffer from post-COVID syndrome are those who had severe COVID and were hospitalized for it.
Most people who suffer from post-COVID headaches describe them as a feeling of severe pressure in the forehead area. It is a very intense pain often accompanied by discomfort near light sources or well-lit areas.
According to the WHO, the Omicron variant can produce long-term effects, such as tachycardia, loss of smell, memory problems, muscle aches, and chronic fatigue. If you have had Omicron and experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor for an evaluation.
The best way to prevent COVID sequelae is to avoid getting COVID-19 in the first place, and to keep up to date with COVID vaccines, including boosters. There is no specific treatment for these conditions after getting sick from the SARS-CoV-2 disease.