When COVID-19 symptoms persist, what should you do? Long-term health concerns can cause problems in some persons who recover from COVID-19.
Long COVID: What is a Post-COVID syndrome?
Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection can cause symptoms that continue for weeks or months in some persons. This is called long COVID. Long COVID is a term that refers to signs and symptoms that persist or worsen after acute COVID-19, including both symptomatic COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 syndrome.
Acute COVID-19: COVID-19 signs and symptoms lasting up to 4 weeks.
Ongoing symptomatic COVID-19: Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 from 4 to 12 weeks.
Post-COVID-19 syndrome: Signs and symptoms that appear during or after a COVID-19 infection last longer than 12 weeks and cannot be explained by another diagnosis.
Why do some people get Long COVID?
We don’t know why people experience symptoms for weeks or months while others don’t. The research is ongoing. Anyone, young or old, healthy or not, with or without other health concerns, can be affected by long COVID.
It’s possible whether you were hospitalized for COVID-19 or if your symptoms were only minor. Around 10% of patients who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus remain ill for more than three weeks and a smaller proportion for months.
What are long COVID symptoms?
The time it takes to recover from coronavirus varies from person to person. Many patients feel better in a few days or weeks, and most will recover completely within 12 weeks, but symptoms can continue longer for certain people.
The likelihood of developing long-term symptoms does not appear to be related to how sick a patient was when they were initially diagnosed with COVID-19. Even though the symptoms were mild at first, they can develop into long-term issues. After a coronavirus infection, you may experience a variety of symptoms.
Common long COVID symptoms include:
• extreme tiredness (fatigue)
• shortness of breath
• chest pain or tightness
• problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
• heart palpitations
• depression and anxiety
• difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
• pins and needles
• joint pain
• tinnitus, earaches
• stomach problems such as feeling sick, diarrhea, stomach aches, or loss of appetite
• common COVID symptoms such as a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, or changes to sense of smell or taste
Who is at risk?
According to preliminary research, anyone who has been infected with COVID-19 (even if they only have a mild illness) may develop Long-COVID. According to some evidence, persons who have a weak immune response to the infection, women, and those who have had a severe sickness are more likely to get Long-COVID.
When to seek medical help
Contact your family doctor if you are worried about having symptoms four weeks or more after having coronavirus. Your family doctor will ask about your symptoms and the impact they are having on your life. They may suggest some tests to find out more about your symptoms and rule out other things that could be causing them. These might include:
• Blood tests
• Checking your blood pressure and heart rate
• Chest Imaging
• Cardiac testing (ECG, Holter monitoring)
• Evaluating exercise capacity and oxygenation (6-min walk test)
If the symptoms are having a significant impact on your life, you may be referred to a specialist or a multi-disciplinary clinic.
- Long COVID can be diagnosed solely based on the patient’s medical history, without a positive COVID test. A negative antibody test does not rule out the presence of long COVID.
- Most people with long COVID are not contagious. If acute symptoms such as loss of taste and smell, cough, fever, or other respiratory infection symptoms appear, re-testing for COVID-19 should be considered.
- Checking oxygen levels and treatment for low oxygen as needed may be helpful as a preventative measure for long COVID.
- Having long COVID symptoms is not a reason to avoid getting the vaccine.