What is Long COVID?

Long COVID is a term used to describe the symptoms that can persist for weeks or even months after the initial infection with the COVID-19 virus. While most people who contract COVID-19 will recover within a few weeks, some may experience ongoing symptoms that can range from mild to severe. 

Symptoms of Long COVID

Like the symptoms of the initial infection, symptoms of Long COVID are varied and can include:

  • fatigue

  • breathlessness

  • chest pain or chest tightness

  • headaches

  • brain fog and the inability to think straight

  • anxiety

  • depression

  • persistent cough

  • changes to the sense of taste and smell

  • sleep difficulty

  • ongoing joint or muscle pain.

Who is most affected by Long COVID?

Long COVID can affect anyone, regardless of age or health status. That said, initial COVID data indicates that older people, women, and those who had experienced particularly severe symptoms during their COVID infection are more likely to be affected by Long COVID. Researchers have also found that people with asthma are more likely to be affected by Long COVID.

How long does it take to recover from Long COVID?

The duration of Long COVID is variable and can last for weeks or even months. It is estimated that 3 to 12 percent of people infected with COVID 19 will develop Long COVID. It is, however, unclear whether Long COVID is impacted by the variant of the virus that people have contracted, or if there is a significant difference on the back of increasing vaccination. Similarly, it is unclear if (and which) vaccinations have impact on Long COVID, if any.

It is important to note that the lasting effects of viral infections are not unique to COVID 19. In fact, many viral infections do result in longer-term symptoms.

Is Long COVID contagious?

No. Long COVID is not contagious. Long COVID symptoms are your body's continued reaction to the initial COVID 19 infection.

Will I test positive on a COVID 19 test if I have Long COVID?

Possibly. Long COVID can result in a positive test for COVID 19, even if you no longer have the virus, however, research suggests that most people don't. Tests detect anti-bodies, so it's possible that elevated levels of antibodies would trigger positive test results even when the initial infection is over.

How is Long COVID treated?

There is no specific treatment for Long COVID. For many, it's just a waiting game with therapies for some of the individual symptoms that persist.

What's the difference between Long COVID and having COVID again?

While it is certainly possible to become infected with COVID more than once, there is a way, albeit more complex, to tell the difference between Long COVID and another infection. Researchers, for example, examine samples looking for live viruses to prove that there is an active COVID infection. Long COVID patients show no live viruses in their isolated samples.

What should a person experiencing Long COVID do?

We understand that Long COVID can be frustrating, daunting, and scary, but there are people who can help.

Consult a healthcare professional if your symptoms impact your ability to live and perform at work.

Fatigue and breathlessness

  • Pace yourself - plan what you’re going to do and don’t over-exert yourself.

  • Try to break tasks that feel difficult down into smaller chunks, and alternate easier and harder activities.

  • Consider the best time of the day to do certain activities based on your energy levels.

  • Frequent short rests are better than a few longer ones, so rest before you become exhausted.

  • Don’t stop doing things that make you feel breathless. If you stop using your muscles, they’ll get weaker, which can make you more breathless when you try to use them.

  • Try to gradually increase the amount of exercise you do. Try going for short walks or doing simple strength exercises and build up from there. 

  • If you use a walking stick or a frame, lean forward on it when you feel breathless.

Boost your mood and mental health

  •  Be kind to yourself during your recovery – be prepared that some days will be worse than others

  •  Connecting with other people can help you feel happier – make sure to keep in touch with family and friends.

  •  Having a daily routine can be good for your mood and sense of stability.

  •  Stay active – continuing to move will help release endorphins and improve your mood.

Tips for thinking or memory problems

  • Make notes to help you remember things – whether it’s in work meetings or medical appointments.

  • Try to reduce distractions.

  • It can help to make a clear plan before approaching any new or complicated problem or situation. Break it down into steps, and keep checking your plan as you follow it.

Relieving joint or muscle pain

  • Flexibility exercises (like stretches, yoga and tai chi) and strength exercises (like climbing stairs, lifting weights and working with resistance bands) can be useful. Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regime. 

The preceding tips have been adopted from the British Heart Foundation.

Need help? Reach out to your Naluri Health Coaching team on the Naluri App.

Written by:
18 April 2022