When the first COVID cases in the U.S. were reported, nobody knew the long term effects of the virus. Scientists were racing to learn everything about SARS-CoV-2 and it wasn’t until some of the first patients who were diagnosed with COVID began revealing how their symptoms had lasted for weeks that Long COVID was discovered. While experts are looking into why some people experience Long COVID and others don’t, it’s still a mystery and more research needs to be done. Eat This, Not That! Health talked with family practitioner, Dr. Janice Johnston, MD, Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder of Redirect Health who explained everything we know about Long COVID so far. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs COVID is Hurting You—Even After a Negative Test.
1 What is Long COVID?
Dr. Johnston explains, “While most people who get infected with COVID recover fully and fairly quickly, some patients experience a whole host of various symptoms that can last months to longer. This can happen to patients not only with severe COVID but those who had minimal to little symptoms during their acute illness.”
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2 Long COVID Symptoms
Dr. Johnston lists the symptoms people with Long COVID can experience.
- “Tiredness or fatigue
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities (also known as post-exertional malaise)
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
- Chest or stomach pain
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
- Joint or muscle pain
- Pins-and-needles feeling
- Sleep problems
- Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness)
- Mood changes
- Change in smell or taste
- Changes in menstrual period cycles”
3 When Do You Know You Have Long COVID?
“In general, if you are experiencing the above constellation of symptoms four weeks after your acute illness, you may likely have long haul COVID,” Dr. Johnston states.
4 How Does Long COVID Happen?
According to Dr. Johnston, “Acute COVID is known for affecting the lungs but can also have an effect on multiple systems of the body including the heart, brain, and kidneys. COVID is also associated with an increased risk of blood clotting which can lead to stroke and heart attacks, but smaller clots can have an effect on organ function in general.”
5 Who is at Risk for Long COVID?
“Those with more severe cases of COVID tend to have symptoms that can linger for a long time, especially those that were hospitalized or spent significant time in the ICU,” Dr. Johnston says. “However, even those with mild symptoms can get long COVID. Much is still yet to be known and research is underway to determine who may be at greater risk, how to avoid long COVID, and how to treat it.”
6 Potential Long-Term Effects of Long COVID
According to Dr. Johnston, “While most symptoms of long COVID do seem to improve slowly over time, some patients report persistent shortness of breath, fatigue, and mental issues. Make sure to get your rest, eat well, continue to take vitamins that support your immune system, such as vitamin C, D, and zinc, and start an exercise program slowly with guidance of your doctor to build back your endurance.”
7 What People Should Know About Long COVID
Dr. Johnston explains, “Talk to your doctor if you don’t feel you are recovering normally. Additional testing may be needed to rule out damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys etc. While there isn’t a specific treatment for long COVID, often addressing each system can improve symptoms. This may require a multi-physician approach. Our philosophy at Redirect Health is to have your primary care physician act as your quarterback through the process as it can be confusing and frustrating.”
8 How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to live your healthiest life, don’t miss this life-saving advice I’m a Doctor and Here’s the #1 Sign You Have Cancer.