What are the real long-term symptoms of COVID-19?

Long Covid

The pandemic has had a major impact on the way we live our lives, across the whole globe. Many of us have been lucky, and careful enough to avoid contracting the virus ourselves. But a large portion of society has not been so fortunate.

With all the publicity, you’d be hard pressed not to recognise the symptoms of COVID-19. The first symptoms include a high temperature, shortness of breath, loss of taste and a persistent cough.

The majority of us will recover within a couple of weeks, but there have been an increasing number of reports of some long-term effects. The quality of life, even for some previously ‘healthy’ people, has been affected long after the virus should have gone away. People are suffering from what has been termed ‘long Covid’.

What is long Covid?

‘Long Covid’ is the term that is used to describe the illness of people who have recovered from the virus but continue to have intermittent symptoms for a long time afterwards. It can also include those who have ongoing symptoms long after the virus should have left their body.

As the phenomenon becomes more widely known, a number of studies have been conducted to investigate just how many people are affected by long Covid.

One such study, published in The Lancet in January this year, looked at confirmed Covid patients discharged from Jin Yin-Tan hospital in Wutan, China, between January 7th and May 29th, 2020.

Researchers studied 1733 patients, with a median follow-up time after symptom onset of 186 days – or around six months. Participants completed a series of questionnaires, to evaluate symptoms and health-related quality of life. They underwent a series of physical examinations, as well as taking part in a six-minute walk test and providing blood samples.

The results were quite striking, with 63% of participants experiencing fatigue or muscle weakness. Of those who had suffered the most severe Covid symptoms during their hospital stay, 29% fell below the lowest normal rate of walking in the six-minute walk test.

What about patients who aren’t hospitalised?

Although the findings of the Wuhan study are alarming, one expects a period of convalescence after a lengthy hospital stay. Particularly one that involves admittance to the ICU, as so many COVID-19 cases do.

Perhaps more alarming is the number of people who experience fairly ‘mild’ Covid, but still can’t shake the symptoms several months later. One study conducted in the Netherlands found that nine out of ten people polled reported having problems with normal daily activities three months after the first symptoms of the virus occurred.

The symptoms of long Covid

So what are the symptoms we should be looking out for? Well, as with the virus itself, reports are varied, but these are the main contenders:

  • Breathing problems
  • Fatigue/muscle pain
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Chills
  • Purple toes
  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Tachycardia (racing heartbeat)
  • High temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Hair loss
  • High temperature
  • Chest pain
  • Memory loss/confusion

Some patients report suffering all of these symptoms at different times. Others say they can feel fine for weeks at a time, then have a period of a few days when it feels like they’re coming down with the virus all over again.

If you, or a family member, think you might be experiencing long Covid, please contact us today to find out how we can help.