COVID-19 symptoms don’t always improve in just a few days or weeks. In some cases, people continue to feel unwell long after their coronavirus tests are negative.
These "COVID long-haulers" experience lingering symptoms that may be as bad or worse than their initial virus symptoms. Symptoms can be severe enough that it becomes difficult for long-haulers to return to work or care for their families.
Lingering COVID Symptoms
Long-term COVID symptoms vary from person to person but may include:
- Brain fog
- Memory problems
- Loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Breathing problems/shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Rapid heart rate
- Joint pain
- Body aches
COVID-19 can also affect the immune system or damage the heart, lungs, brain, and other organs, causing permanent health issues that doctors must carefully manage.
Constant fatigue was cited as a problem for more than 97% of long-haulers who logged their symptoms in a COVID Systems Study app. And 91% struggled with intermittent headaches.
Still Experiencing COVID Symptoms?
Are you a COVID long-hauler? Talk with your provider about your symptoms.
Why Some People Have Long-Term COVID Symptoms
It’s not clear why some people still feel sick months after their diagnosis. About 10% of people who have COVID-19 become long-haulers, according to British researchers who published an article on post-acute COVID-19 in The BMJ.
Long-haul COVID doesn’t seem to be related to the severity of the initial illness. You’re just as likely to develop long-term symptoms whether you had mild or severe symptoms.
The number of symptoms you first experience may increase your chance of developing long-haul COVID. The researchers who analyzed the COVID Systems Study app results noticed that patients who had five or more coronavirus symptoms were initially more likely to experience long-term COVID issues.
An immune system overreaction is one theory that could explain long-haul COVID. It’s also possible that long-haul symptoms might occur if a small amount of the virus remains in the body despite negative tests or the virus triggers inflammation.
Treating Long-Haul COVID Symptoms
As reports of long-haul COVID symptoms increased throughout the country during recent months, doctors began to look for ways to help people suffering from the condition. Post-COVID recovery clinics have been opening in some areas of the country. They're dedicated to easing common long-term coronavirus symptoms. The clinics have various specialists and therapists in one location, making it easier to treat patients who have a range of symptoms.
Although clinics aren’t available in every area of the U.S., post-COVID healthcare teams plan to share their treatment knowledge with doctors throughout the country.
While there is currently no cure for long-haul COVID symptoms, treatments aimed at improving individual symptoms can help improve your health if you still experience symptoms long after your initial COVID diagnosis. Talk to your doctor about any lingering symptoms you may have.
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