Since the emergence of the COVID-19 virus, there has been a rapid spread, even after the pandemic period elapsed and countries eased off their lockdowns. Research has shown that people with the virus usually recover after some days or one or two weeks. In more severe cases, recovery can take about six weeks or longer.
But, in some unusual cases, COVID-19 can cause symptoms that last longer than usual—for weeks or months—after recovery. This case is known as ‘Long COVID.’ It is also referred to as post-acute COVID, long-haul COVID, long-tail COVID, and post-COVID. This article will address symptoms, probable causes, and ways to manage and recover from long COVID.
Contrary to what most people think, the long COVID effect can happen to anyone recovering from the virus, not depending on the severity of their illness. The same is the case for people without chronic medical conditions.
Based on data from the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics, one out of ten people tested for COVID-19 experience symptoms for about 12 weeks or longer, which led to the probability that there may be 5 million long COVID cases—or more— across the world.
Some studies have found more probable occurrences of long COVID in females, older adults, people who were not vaccinated for COVID-19, and people with a high BMI (body mass index).
Long COVID has its symptoms, most of which linger after recovery from the COVID-19 virus. The most common symptoms include chest pain, joint pain, cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Some people may also experience muscle pain, fluctuating fever, headache, heart palpitations, depression, and memory problems (also known as brain fog). Some other long COVID effects are rare long-term complications. These complications include hair loss, insomnia, lung problems, severe kidney injuries, rashes, mood swings, anxiety, concentration problems, and loss of smell and taste.
The long COVID effect will not occur the same way. Some patients get less severe symptoms that ease off over time. However, some have long-lasting, severe symptoms that can sometimes lead to disability.
There are uncertainties about what causes long COVID. Still, based on research, some possible causes include reinfection of the COVID-19 virus, post-traumatic stress, a lack of response from the immune system, and deconditioning, among others.
Long COVID does not have a specific test for diagnosis, and there may be other symptoms that do not stem from long COVID but from other medical conditions. The doctor diagnoses long COVID based on the infected person’s entire medical history and all COVID-19 symptoms, from the time of the infection to the current state.
Some blood tests may be done to check electrolytes, liver function, kidney function, full blood count, iron levels, heart health, inflammation levels, troponin, muscle damage, and D-dimer- to ensure there are no blood clots. Some other possible tests include an antigen test, a urine test, a chest X-ray, and an electrocardiogram. Sometimes, some of these symptoms are difficult to manage or understand, but there is still ongoing research to understand them fully.
However, there are ways that long COVID patients can manage the situation. Some of these include home remedies like resting, using over-the-counter pain relievers, healthy dieting, sleeping, no smoking, limiting the intake of caffeine and alcohol, and other general healthcare methods. But, because the long COVID symptoms vary in people, the remedies will be more individualized. Some people will have to take more extreme measures than others, with the direction of a doctor, most importantly.
It is currently unclear how long it takes for a long COVID patient to recover. However, it is necessary to seek medical help once the patient starts to experience any of these symptoms: worsened breathlessness, extreme weakness, chest pain, noticeable changes in speech, sight, or hearing, or a state of confusion.
Living with long COVID can be difficult, mainly because there is no immediate cure. People living with long COVID need to keep in touch with a doctor for advice. They could also seek support groups because it is much easier to go through medical conditions like this with people in similar situations.