It's been over three years since the pandemic started, and many people who contracted COVID-19, also known as SARS-CoV-2, have recovered. But for some, the virus has lingered, causing ongoing symptoms that can last for months. The medical world has coined the term 'long COVID' to describe this experience. Some also refer to the experiences as post-COVID conditions or the after-effects of COVID. You're not alone if you've been dealing with symptoms for weeks or months after your diagnosis. The CDC reports that 1 in 14 adults or over 7% of the U.S. population has experienced long COVID symptoms. Here's what you need to know about long COVID.
What are the Symptoms of Long COVID?
After you have the answer to "What is long covid"? it's time to understand how it feels. The most common symptom of long COVID is fatigue. People have described it as feeling as if a truck has hit them. It's different from the fatigue you might feel after a busy week or when you're fighting off a cold; this fatigue is severe and can last for weeks or months. Other common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Brain fog
- Joint pain
- Sleep problems
Some people may experience heart palpitations, lightheadedness, diarrhea, stomach pain, a rash, and more changes to their taste and smell. Also, women may find they have differences in their regular menstrual cycle.
Long COVID can also cause mental health problems. Anxiety and depression are common, and some people have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after contracting the virus.
These symptoms can come and go, or they can be constant. They can also vary in intensity. Some people only have mild symptoms, while others find them debilitating.
What Causes Long COVID?
The exact cause of long COVID is unknown, but several theories exist. One theory is that the virus damages the lungs, which can cause ongoing respiratory problems. Another thought is that the virus triggers an autoimmune response, which can cause inflammation and other problems throughout the body.
Data also suggests cytokines, a type of protein that helps regulate the immune response, may play a role in long COVID. People who have long COVID often have high levels of these proteins in their bodies.
There is still much unknown about long COVID and how to treat it. However, researchers are continuing to study the condition and hope to have more answers in the future.
Who is Most at Risk of Post-COVID Conditions?
There is still a lot unknown about long COVID, but experts have identified some risk factors.
People who are most at risk of developing post-COVID syndrome include those who:
- Were hospitalized with COVID-19
- Were put on a ventilator
- Experienced severe symptoms
- Had not had a COVID-19 vaccine
- Suffered multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) during or immediately following their COVID-19 infection
If you fall into any of these categories, it's important to be aware of the possible long-term effects of the virus.
When to Consult a Doctor
If you think you may have long COVID, it's important to consult a medical professional. While no specific test exists for long COVID, your doctor can rule out other conditions and develop a treatment plan. When fatigue is causing significant problems in your day-to-day life, stay safe with a video call rather than going out and driving while drowsy. At Antidote Health, we can connect you with a medical professional for a video visit from the comfort of your home.
How is Long COVID Diagnosed?
There is currently no standard test for long COVID, but there are some ways your doctor can check to see if you have it. They will ask about your symptoms and may also order blood tests, a chest X-ray, or other imaging tests. If you're experiencing mental health problems, they may refer you to a mental health professional.
There is also the possibility of a "COVID-19 biomarker test." These tests are not currently available to the public, but they may be in the future. The test looks for antibodies in the blood that are specific to COVID-19. This could help doctors identify who has had the virus and who is at risk for long COVID.
Many doctors are now offering virtual visits if you don't feel up to an in-person appointment. This can be a good option if you're worried about exposure to the virus. Studies also show that long-COVID risks increase with repeated infections.
What is the Treatment for Long COVID?
There is currently no specific treatment for long COVID, but there are things that can help ease symptoms. For example, if you're having trouble sleeping, your doctor may recommend taking a sleep aid. They may suggest therapy or medication if you're experiencing anxiety or depression.
But it doesn't mean there won't be treatments available in the future. Researchers are currently working on potential treatments and vaccines for long COVID. In the meantime, focusing on taking care of yourself and managing your symptoms is important.
Wellness Adaptations to Improve Quality of Life
Although there is no cure for long COVID (yet), there are things you can do to help manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes, such as:
- Getting regular exercise
- Eating a healthy diet
- Practicing stress-relief techniques
- Getting enough sleep
- Limiting alcohol intake
- If you smoke, quitting smoking
Making these changes may not eliminate your symptoms completely, but they can help you feel better.
What is the Prognosis for People with Long COVID?
The prognosis for people with long COVID is still unknown. Some people have reported that their symptoms improve over time, while others find their symptoms get worse. It's important to talk to your doctor about your specific case and what you can expect.
How to Prevent Long-Haul COVID?
The best way to prevent long COVID is to avoid getting the virus. And right now that means getting vaccinated. The vaccine is available to everyone six months and older. If you have questions about the vaccine, talk to your doctor.
You can also help prevent long COVID by wearing a mask, social distancing when you're not feeling well or there are high transmission rates in your area, and washing your hands regularly. These things will also help protect you from getting the virus.
What if you don't have health insurance?
If you don't have health insurance, options are still available. Use the Antidote Health app to connect with a medical professional for a virtual visit from the comfort of your home. With or without insurance, our services are affordable and easy to use.
Antidote Health can connect you with a primary or urgent care clinician in minutes, and we'll even help you find a specialist if you need one. Our app enables you to get the necessary care for long COVID without leaving home.
If you're experiencing post-COVID syndrome, don't wait to get help. Download the Antidote Health app today.