As if Covid itself wasn’t bad enough, some studies are showing that between 5 and 15% of people are experiencing long Covid, with symptoms persisting beyond the 10 days or so that we may expect from the acute infection. The precise definition varies, but the NHS is currently describing symptoms that last beyond 4 or 12 weeks as ‘ongoing symptomatic Covid’ or ‘post Covid syndrome’…both of which can be regarded as long Covid. Time will tell us more about what long Covid really entails and currently our information is very limited.
Having a nasty virus can knock anyone back for a while, as the immune and other systems recover. However, we do know that some people can continue with symptoms that are now called myalgic encephalitis (ME)or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
It’s likely that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can do something similar after Covid infection with some people experiencing prolonged fatigue, persisting breathlessness or cough and chest tightness. ‘Brain fog’, poor memory, sleep disturbance, dizziness or pins and needles can also be a feature. Problems with diarrhoea, bloating or abdominal pain may trouble others, and joint pains, sore throat or earache have been reported too. The loss of smell and taste that many people associate with Covid can persist in some cases, and, perhaps not surprisingly, there are reports of depression and anxiety after recovery from the acute illness.
That’s a whole range of possible problems…but these are symptoms that we may also experience anyway for a range of reasons and there is no way, as yet, of diagnosing long Covid. We also don’t know what to do about the symptoms but some of the advice given regarding ME / CFS is likely to be beneficial for long Covid too.
I think I may have long Covid–what do I do?
Clearly, any worrying or new symptoms should be checked out by your own doctor.
Breathlessness, unexplained rashes, abdominal symptoms, pain, headaches, dizziness and more may need investigating urgently to exclude serious problems, whether Covid related or not. Yes, the NHS is under pressure, but it’s there to treat your health problems and would rather see you sooner than later to decide if anything needs checking out.
Milder symptoms may also be due to other causes–stress headaches, bloating from slipping into poor eating habits, fatigue from late nights on screens, brain fog from hormonal issues around perimenopause…all of these may benefit from some tweaks to your lifestyle or a less urgent chat with your doctor or practice nurse. Whether symptoms are long-Covid related or not, an overhaul of any bad lockdown habits is well worthwhile!
The NHS long Covid advice page is worth a look too and there will be plenty of research updates appearing over the coming months to shed more light on this emerging problem.