The coronavirus pandemic is crawling to an end, experts hope, with a new variant threatening to undo progress. But for a large part of Americans, COVID may never end. "While not everyone with COVID-19 may require hospitalization at the time of their infection, one of the unfortunate outcomes from COVID-19 is something known as 'post-COVID conditions' or 'long COVID,'" said CDC Chief Rochelle Walensky yesterday at the White House COVID Press Briefing. "Post-COVID conditions are an umbrella term for the wide range of physical and mental health problems that occur four or more weeks after being infected with COVID-19. Current research suggests that up to 20 percent of people are reporting post-COVID condition symptoms, but additional research is needed and is ongoing with funding from NIH and CDC." Read on to see if you have the 10 symptoms she mentioned—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.
You May Have Fatigue
Walensky mentioned fatigue first, and it is often the primary symptom of Post-COVID Syndrome. This doesn't mean folks feel a little tired or sleepy, or are lazy. It can mean that you are bed-ridden, or that if you do exert yourself beyond a certain point, your body "crashes," as if the exertion were a poison. One recent study, from April, defined this as fatigue and malaise, and it's also been described as post-exertional malaise, an affliction that sufferers of CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), myalgic encephalomyelitis know all too well.
You May Have Brain Fog
Dr. Anthony Fauci describes brain fog as "the inability to focus or concentrate over an extended period of time." The term has become almost synonymous with long haulers, and it is one of the most common symptoms experienced by them. They might forget they made a cup of tea and make another one, only to see the first setting there; they might have a hard time focusing on or processing information; they might have cognitive difficulties. One new study found evidence of brain damage in Long COVID patients.
You May Have Headaches
These headaches can be like a jack-hammer and feel never ending. "Headache in the acute phase of SARS-CoV-2 infection was associated with higher prevalence of headache and fatigue as long-term post-COVID symptoms. Monitoring headache during the acute phase could help to identify patients at risk of developing long-term post-COVID symptoms, including post-COVID headache," says one new study.
You May Have a Continuous Loss of Smell or Taste
You have heard a loss of taste—ageusia— and smell—anosmia—was a symptom of COVID—it's so unusual, it is often a telltale sign. Some people have yet to regain these senses.
You May Have Dizziness On Standing
"Orthostatic hypotension — also called postural hypotension — is a form of low blood pressure that happens when you stand up from sitting or lying down. Orthostatic hypotension can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded, and maybe even cause you to faint," says the Mayo Clinic. "Orthostatic hypotension may be mild, and episodes can last for less than a few minutes. However, long-lasting orthostatic hypotension can signal more-serious problems, so it's important to see a doctor if you frequently feel lightheaded when standing up."
You May Have Heart Palpitations or Chest Pains
Heart problems are all-too-common among long haulers. Said one: "I was a triathlete..a marathon runner…after contracting a mild case of Covid in March 2020, I suffered chest pains (at one point I called 999 thinking I was having a heart attack), heart palpitations, mental fog, sharp stabbing heart pains, chest pressure. I am still unable to run, 15 months later."
You May Have Difficulty Breathing
Naturally, since COVID can present itself as a respiratory disease, some patients have had respiratory issues. What's frightening is that for some, they never go away. Besides scarring of the lungs, some feel out of breath doing simple tasks due to malaise or other issues, like heart trouble.
You May Cough
The cough was one of the first identified symptoms of COVID-19, and for some people, it has never gone away. "Cough can persist for weeks or months after SARS-CoV-2 infection, often accompanied by chronic fatigue, cognitive impairment, dyspnoea, or pain—a collection of long-term effects referred to as the post-COVID syndrome or long COVID," says one new study. If you cant to get technical: "We hypothesise that the pathways of neurotropism, neuroinflammation, and neuroimmunomodulation through the vagal sensory nerves, which are implicated in SARS-CoV-2 infection, lead to a cough hypersensitivity state."
You May Have Joint or Muscle Pain
Dr. Fauci has mentioned long haulers can suffer "myalgia." These aches and pains can appear anywhere on your body, and can be frightening. One long hauler felt he was having a heart attack, but it was in fact an inflammation of his rib cartilage, called costochondritis. Then for three months, his mid-back was constricted. Now, a year on, he gets shooting pains in his arm, which he mistakes for angina.
You May Have Depression, Anxiety and Insomnia
One recent study, from April, found "our results also showed an excess burden of sleep–wake disorders , anxiety and fear-related disorders, and trauma- and stress-related disorders." Many patients have complained of a post-traumatic stress disorder.
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Final Word From the Head of the CDC
Said Walensky: "These symptoms can persist for weeks or months after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, or appear weeks after infection. For some people, they can be severely debilitating," said Dr. Walensky. "A recent study published in MMWR found that two out of three adults who had COVID-19 and were not hospitalized for their initial illness went on to have at least one outpatient visit for symptoms — such as chest or throat pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, and cough — one to six months after they were initially diagnosed with COVID-19.
The study also found that more than one in three patients had to be referred to a specialist, such as doctors that specialize in pulmonology, neurology, cardiology, and behavioral or mental health. In other words, even patients who were not hospitalized for COVID-19 infection were commonly referred for additional evaluation for COVID-19-related symptoms and conditions after their initial illness. We have seen post-COVID conditions in people of all ages, and this makes it even more important for anyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.
There are many benefits of vaccination, including preventing serious illness — illness and death, but also the kind of long-term effects associated with post-COVID conditions.
I invite you to visit the CDC website to review new information to help healthcare professionals in evaluating caring for patients with post-COVID conditions. CDC is continuing to work to identify how common these longer-term effects are, who is the most likely to get them, and whether symptoms eventually resolve.
Multi-year studies are also on their — underway that will help us better understand post-COVID conditions and understand how to treat patients with these longer-term effects."And to get through life at your healthiest, don't miss The #1 Cause of "Deadly" Cancer.