What Is Long Covid
While thereâs currently no agreed clinical definition, those displaying long COVID symptoms have been described as:
People with more severe infections might experience long-term damage not just in their lungs but in their heart, immune system, brain and elsewhere.4
Some have used the term âlong COVIDâ when symptoms persist beyond three weeks8, but in the UK, itâs agreed that this term is:
Commonly used to describe signs and symptoms that continue or develop after acute COVID-19. It includes both ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 syndrome .9
In 2020, the Office of National Statistics released data that showed that after testing positive for COVID-19:
- 20% or people were still experiencing symptoms five or more weeks later
- 10% of people were still experiencing symptoms 12 or more weeks later.10
THE ONS has more recently published figures from June of 2021 which suggest that 40% of survey respondents with self-reported long COVID-19 were still experiencing symptoms one year after infection.7
While itâs still too early to know a lot about long COVID, we know from other pandemics and other viral infections that itâs not uncommon for people to experience a persistence of long-term symptoms.
Stay Hydrated Especially If Youre Sick But Even If You Arent
When Schore was sick and feverish, she was also sweating. I woke up 13 hours later and my sheets were drenched, she recalled. The next day, she could barely pee, which was surprising, because shes pre-diabetic and pees often. That raised alarm bells for her.
Maintaining fluid balance is always important, Moorhead said. Staying hydrated doesnt just help you when youre sick its a good idea all the time. If youre dehydrated and you get sick, youre already behind fighting the virus.
Dehydration doesnt just come from a lack of water. It also comes from a lack of electrolyte minerals like sodium and potassium. If youre sick, its a good idea to drink things that are formulated to help rehydrate you, like Pedialyte or Gatorade.
Symptoms of dehydration include headache, dizziness and dark-colored urine. If youre sick and you stop peeing, contact a health care provider. You may need help rehydrating.
Sniffles Sneezing Headaches And Gi Symptoms Are Common Now Too
While COVID is a respiratory virus, many people present with mild signs that have nothing to do with the organs and tissues that help them breathe. The CDC includes congestion, headaches and GI symptoms, like nausea or vomiting, on its list of most common symptoms.
We have seen an evolution in COVID symptoms themselves, said Natasha Bhuyan, a family physician with One Medical in Arizona.
Shes personally treated patients whove come in with symptoms they thought couldnt possibly be COVID like, a runny nose they chalked up to seasonal allergies, or diarrhea they attributed to a stomach bug who ultimately did test positive for the virus.
The challenge, of course, is that those symptoms are similar to what people do experience when they get a cold, the flu, a stomach bug and so many other common illnesses that circulate during the colder months.
Theres a range of symptoms and tremendous overlap, Bhuyan said.
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Fever Chills Cough Shortness Of Breath And Loss Of Taste And Smell Continue To Be Hallmark Covid Symptoms
COVID symptoms can pop up anywhere between two and 14 days after an exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but on average, it takes about five or six days. Many of the mild symptoms you should be looking for within that window are those weve heard about all along: fever and/or chills, a cough and shortness of breath though all of those can range in intensity.
Loss of taste and smell continue to be really common mild cases, too. Some estimates suggest that more than half of people who have really mild cases lose their sense of smell to some degree.
Why Are We Talking About Sleep
Many people recovering from COVID notice that their sleep has changed when compared to their sleep before they became unwell.
Some people find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, and others find they wake up earlier than usual and cant get back to sleep. It might be that you are waking up feeling unrefreshed, like you havent slept at all, in which case you might find it helpful to also read the information on fatigue.
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When Your Immune Response Becomes The Enemy
While the majority of people have mild COVID-19 symptoms and do not need to be hospitalised, overseas experience suggests around 20 per cent of people will need to be, and 5 per cent of those will be critically ill.
Most people’s immune response will help fight the virus.
But sometimes the immune response can start to get out of control.
“If you have too much inflammation, you get this cytokine storm, or this inflammatory response that essentially damages your lungs and causes more damage than the virus itself,” Dr Short said.
“That creates a whole lot of problems for other organ systems, because all the organs in your body need access to oxygen. And ultimately what can happen, is the patient can be so short of oxygen they need oxygen supplied externally, and potentially to be put on a ventilator.”
While some risk factors for the immune system becoming “hyperactivated” are known, Dr Short said experts could only speculate at the moment on why other patients ended up in a critical condition in hospital.
“Why one 30-year-old gets very severe disease and another 30-year-old gets very mild disease, we don’t know,” she said.
When Should I See My Gp
There are many potential causes of fatigue. Even before the pandemic, fatigue was one of the most common reasons to see a GP.
Most serious causes can be ruled out when your GP asks about your symptoms and examines you. Sometimes your GP will investigate further, perhaps by ordering blood tests.
Symptoms that should raise particular concern include fevers, unexplained weight loss, unusual bleeding or bruising, pain that wakes you from sleep, or drenching night sweats.
If your fatigue is getting worse rather than better, or you cannot care for yourself properly, you really should seek medical care.
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Prioritise Getting Good Sleep
Long COVID is a relatively newly defined disorder so itâs difficult to know how the condition progresses and to pinpoint the appropriate and effective treatments for the numerous symptoms that people are experiencing.
However, given the link between poor sleep and many of the symptoms described in long COVID people, itâs clear that sleep improvement could improve some of these symptoms and so improve quality of life.
In this pandemic world, where we seem to have lost a lot of control over our lives, liberty and health, one thing remains that we can control: our sleep.
Getting enough sleep is crucial to any recovery. As weâve discussed above, sleep can improve your mental health, helps you recover from illness in general and reduces inflammation within the body.
First, consider whether youâre giving yourself ample opportunity to sleep. Are you sitting up watching TV or playing on your phone till the early hours? You might want to consider what time youâre going to bed and whether you need to give yourself more opportunity to sleep.
Think about your sleep space: is your bedroom set-up just right for good sleep? Is there anything you could do to make it a better place to get a good nightâs sleep. We have a wealth of articles that you can explore to better understand how to get the best out of your sleep.
Register now and youâll be assigned a sleep coach who will develop your sleep plan and guide you on your way back to better sleep.
Experts Say Just A Single Symptom Is Enough To Warrant Testing
Because its pretty much impossible to distinguish between a cold and a breakthrough COVID infection based on symptoms alone, experts like Bhuyan said it is essential that people get tested.
Ive had patients with one symptom who think, This cant be COVID. Im vaccinated. Then theyll come in for testing, Bhuyan said, and in some instances, they have, in fact, had a breakthrough COVID infection.
So Bhuyan recommended that you get a COVID test if you have any symptoms, particularly if youre in an area of high transmission, even if youve just got the sniffles or a headache. One symptom is enough.
Its not just individual doctors who urge that kind of caution the CDC does, too. If you have any symptoms, get tested, the agency says. Fortunately, the growth of at-home testing options makes that logistically simpler, although PCR tests remain the gold standard.
If it is COVID, its recommended you isolate for 10 days or until you test negative. That being said, some people believe we are making vaccinated people with mild breakthrough infections isolate for too long. It can be profoundly challenging to step away from work and family for 10 days, and emerging evidence suggests that people who have mild breakthroughs are unlikely to contribute to an outbreak after more than a few days.
For now, however, its really important to err on the side of testing if you have any symptoms at all and if you happen to test positive isolate accordingly.
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Vaccine Effectiveness & Omicron
Expert studies have shown that the risk of severe illness from Covid-19 is reduced by 90 percent or more among people who are fully vaccinated.
While there are breakthrough cases of Covid among people who are vaccinated, they are rare.
In the event of a breakthrough case, victims are highly unlikely to be hospitalized with severe or deadly symptoms from the virus.
Health officials have advised that the Omicron variant is more infectious and could lead to further breakthrough cases.
Yet the spread can be offset by all vaccinated Americans receiving a booster shot.
Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant.
With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death.
Studies have also shown that side effects from the vaccine are extremely rare.
Other People At High Risk For Covid
Beyond age or pre-existing medical conditions, there are three additional things, per the CDC, that can elevate your risk of exposure:
Being a healthcare worker. Medical professionals put themselves in harms way during infectious epidemics to care for the sickits no different with COVID-19. This includes doctors, nurses, and anyone else working in hospitals, ERs, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, clinics, and other places with coronavirus patients.
Close contact. In other words, people who are taking care of someone or live in the same house as someone whos tested positive for COVID-19.
Community spread. This means if you live in or just visited a place where lots of people have tested positive for the illness.
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What Are The First Symptoms Of Coronavirus
Early symptoms reported by some people include fatigue, headache, sore throat or fever. Others experience a loss of smell or taste. COVID-19 can cause symptoms that are mild at first, but then become more intense over five to seven days, with worsening cough and shortness of breath. Some people develop pneumonia with COVID-19.
The type and severity of first symptoms can vary widely from person to person, and that is why it is very important to call your doctor if you have symptoms, even mild ones.
Immunosuppressed Groups And A Third Covid
The CDC officially recommends a third shot for the following vulnerable groups :
Anyone receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
Organ transplant recipients
Those who’ve received a stem cell transplant within the past two years
Those who are taking medication to suppress the immune system
People with moderate to severe primary immunodeficiencies
Anyone with advanced or untreated HIV infection
Those undergoing treatment with high-dose corticosteroids that suppress immune response
In October 2021, CDC officials said that certain immunocompromised populations might even need a fourth shot, but didnt give any official recommendations on the matter . This came after study data showed that 44% of those who were fully vaccinated but immunocompromised accounted for about 44% of breakthrough COVID cases that needed hospitalization, showing the real need for a potential additional shot.
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What Can I Expect While Recovering From Covid
Everyone will have a different experience in their recovery from COVID-19. Some people may recover in days, some in weeks. But for others, it could be months. Although each case is unique, people recovering from more severe symptoms are likely to face a longer recovery period.
Schedule regular appointments with your GP to discuss your symptoms and how best to manage them. Your GP will tell you about any medicines that might suit your needs.
Common symptoms you may experience during your recovery:
- change in sense of taste or smell
- anxiety and/or low mood
If you have any of the following symptoms, call emergency services on 000 immediately and tell the phone operator youve previously been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- severe shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- severe chest pain or pressure
- a new or returning fever
- worsening ability to concentrate and increased confusion
- difficulty waking up
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has also created a guide for patients on managing mild post COVID-19 symptoms. This includes advice on managing fatigue, easing muscle and joint pain, and managing a cough or any breathlessness.
Facts And Figures Of Patients Who Were Hospitalized With Covid
Figures from the above study show:
- 191 people hospitalized with COVID 19
- 28% patients died from COVID-19
- 72% patients survived COVID-19
- 26% of patients went into intensive care unit
- 78% patients who went into ICU passed away
- 22% patients who went to ICU survived
- 8 days was the median length of stay in ICU
- 11 days was the median total length of stay in hospital
- 22 days was the time from first symptom until discharge from hospital for survivors
- 18.5 days from first symptoms until death for non-survivors
- 20 days median length of time for viral shedding, starting at first day of symptoms
- 52 years old median age for survivor
- 69 years old median age for non-survivor
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Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome In Children
A troubling trend has been the rise in cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, with 1,659 cases reported in New York as of October 2020, including 26 deaths. MISC-C causes severe inflammation in the lungs and abdomen, with some children experiencing blood clotting and heart failure, too, according to a report in the journal Radiology.
Symptoms vary and may take weeksor potentially longer no one yet knowsto show up. And while many of the hospitalized children tested negative for an active COVID-19 infection, they did test positive for antibodies. Fortunately, readily available corticosteroids can usually successfully treat most inflammatory symptoms of MIS-C.
If I Get The Coronavirus Vaccine Will I Get Covid
No, the COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration cannot and will not give you COVID-19. The new coronavirus vaccines can cause side effects, since they activate your immune system, but this does not mean you are infected with the coronavirus or that you have COVID-19. As your immune system responds to the vaccine and learns to recognize and fight the coronavirus, fever, pain at the injection site and muscle aches are possible, but these are usually both mild and temporary. Learn more about the safety of the coronavirus vaccines.
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Is It Too Late To Get Vaccinated
When it comes to COVID-19 and the flu, know that it’s not too late to be vaccinated for either or both at the same time.
Both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines take a few weeks to build up an immune response and provide the most protection. So if you haven’t gotten those vaccines yet, getting them now is the best way to be protected in the future.
If You Have A Pulse Oximeter
A pulse oximeter is a device that clips on your finger to check the level of oxygen in your blood.
Low levels of oxygen in your blood can be a sign you’re getting worse. A pulse oximeter can help you spot this before you feel breathless or have any other symptoms, so you can get help quickly.
You may be asked by a GP or healthcare professional to monitor your oxygen levels if you’re at a high risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.
If you’re using a pulse oximeter at home, make sure it has a CE mark, UKCA mark or CE UKNI mark. This means that the device will work properly and is safe if used correctly.
If you’ve been given a pulse oximeter to use, watch an NHS YouTube video about how to use a pulse oximeter and when to get help.
It’s helpful to write down your readings, so you know what your oxygen level is when you first use the pulse oximeter and can spot if your level is going down. This can also help if you need to speak to a healthcare professional.
Speak to a GP or healthcare professional before using your pulse oximeter and tell them if you have any questions or concerns.
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