Long-term effects of Coronavirus (Long COVID)

Following infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) some people continue to experience symptoms or develop new symptoms. These symptoms can last for weeks or months. When the symptoms persist for more than 12 weeks the condition is known as post-COVID syndrome or long COVID.

Chest infection covid

What are the symptoms of long COVID?

People that have had infection with coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) can have a range of persistent or fluctuating symptoms that have a significant impact on quality of life. These include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations and irregular heart rhythms
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Memory problems 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Acid reflux
  • Hair loss
  • Rash

Who is at risk of post-COVID syndrome?

Approximately 10% of people who have it go on to develop persistent symptoms. People who suffered from severe COVID and those that required intensive care are at highest risk of long COVID. Middle aged females also seem to be at higher risk.

How long does it take to recover?

It is a new disease and only in the last couple of years have doctors been doing research into COVID and the persistent symptoms that occur is some people. Although there are reports of symptoms lasting more than 12 months in some people, fortunately most people recover within 6 months. It is important that symptoms are investigated for potential factors that are leading to their manifestation. Treatment is then targeted at the underlying disease process or for symptom management. It is essential that the correct specialist evaluates each aspect of long COVID and Dr Jose has expertise in the chest aspects as well overseeing management by other specialists with an interest in the organ manifestations of long COVID. 

Duration for treatment ?

A holistic approach is often required with a focus on rest, mindfulness, improving sleep hygiene and a gradual increase in activity. Therapies targeted at managing individual symptoms or symptom clusters is beneficial and help speed the recover process. 

It is however important to exclude significant pathology such as blood clots, lung fibrosis or bronchiectasis or other contributory factors such heart disease or sleep problems. Dr Jose can help. 

This resource from the Homerton Hospital offers guidance on self management of fatigue, breathlessness and cough, and increasing your activity.  

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