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  • Raghav Sand

Long-haul COVID-19: Hidden in Plain Sight

Humans have a limited attention span. For the time being, the war in Ukraine has overshadowed all other major issues. Vaccination rate for the COVID-19 virus is steadily rising across the world. Number of new and active cases of the stubborn pathogen finally seem to have been tamed. The humanitarian crises in Ukraine and other neglected conflict zones deserve attention and condemnation. In all this chaos, we cannot overlook a wide variety of symptoms seen among people who had contracted the COVID-19 virus.

The term “Post-COVID Conditions” is an umbrella term for the wide range of physical and mental health consequences experienced by some patients that are present four or more weeks after SARS-CoV-2 infection, including by patients who had initial mild or asymptomatic acute infection.

Long COVID Symptoms

Some people experience a range of new or ongoing symptoms that can last weeks or months after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Unlike some of the other types of post-COVID conditions that tend only to occur in people who have had severe illness, these symptoms can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even if the illness was mild, or if they had no initial symptoms. People commonly report experiencing different combinations of the following symptoms:

  1. Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath;

  2. Tiredness or fatigue;

  3. Difficulty thinking or concentrating (“brain fog”);

  4. Cough;

  5. Chest or stomach pain;

  6. Headache;

  7. Fast-beating or pounding heart;

  8. Joint or muscle pain;

  9. Pins-and-needles feeling;

  10. Diarrhoea;

  11. Sleep problems;

  12. Fever;

  13. Dizziness on standing (light-headedness);

  14. Rash;

  15. Mood changes;

  16. Change in smell or taste; and

  17. Changes in menstrual period cycles

Effects of COVID-19 Illness or Hospitalization

Some symptoms that can occur after hospitalization are similar to some of the symptoms that people with initially mild or no symptoms may experience many weeks after COVID-19. It can be difficult to know whether they are caused by the effects of hospitalization, the long-term effects of the virus, or a combination of both. These conditions might also be complicated by other effects related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including mental health effects from isolation, negative economic situations, and lack of access to healthcare for managing underlying conditions. These factors have affected both people who have experienced COVID-19 and those who have not.

Long COVID: Age No Bar

A person of any age who has had COVID-19 can later develop a post-COVID condition. Although post-COVID conditions appear to be less common in children and adolescents than in adults, long-term effects after COVID-19 do occur in children and adolescents.

Studies have reported long-term symptoms in children with both mild and severe COVID-19, including children who previously had multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. Similar to the symptoms seen in adults, the most common symptoms reported have been tiredness or fatigue, headache, trouble sleeping (insomnia), trouble concentrating, muscle and joint pain, and cough.

Young children may have trouble describing the problems they are experiencing; information on post-COVID conditions in children and adolescents is limited. It is possible that other symptoms may be likely in younger age groups.

Long COVID: When to Worry and What to Do

Medical practitioners prescribe a one-month window for recovery from the COVID-19 virus. If a person experiences one or more of the symptoms shared above even after one month from the date of first contracting the virus, they should get in touch with their general physician as soon as possible. The diagnosis and treatment for long COVID is patient centered. Initially, it is recommended to consult the family doctor, and later if the problem persists, the services of a specialist should be sought.

Subject to the severity of the case, some of the symptoms may be self-managed. If you, or anyone you know, are recovering from the COVID-19 virus and feel fatigued soon, then don’t over work. Try to maintain a sleep hygiene. Avoid multitasking or using multiple screens at the same time to avoid cognitive dysfunction – more commonly known as brain fog.

Fragments of the virus may remain in the body of a person once infected with COVID-19. No organ system is spared. It can aggravate a pre-existing condition or give rise to a new ailment altogether. If the condition doesn’t improve ‘on its own’, please consult a physician at the earliest. A health condition that may initially seem mild, can transform into chronic if it is not diagnosed and treated timely.

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