Imagine getting COVID and thinking you're going to be fine after a short period of time (which many people are), but instead you don't have a sense of taste or smell, you're severely fatigued and experience a wide range of symptoms including brain fog and more for weeks or months after the initial infection. This is happening to millions and according to the Brookings Institution, "Around 16 million working-age Americans (those aged 18 to 65) have long Covid today. Of those, 2 to 4 million are out of work due to long Covid. The annual cost of those lost wages alone is around $170 billion a year (and potentially as high as $230 billion)." Although much more needs to be learned about long COVID, "The federal government is taking steps to fund additional long COVID research. For example, the National Institutes of Health launched the $1.15 billion Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Initiative, which combines data across more than 200 research sites, the U.S. Government Accountability Office states. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Sean Marchese, MS, RN, a registered nurse at The Mesothelioma Center with a background in oncology clinical trials and over 20 years of direct patient care experience who explains what to know about long COVID and symptoms that can linger on. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
What to Know About Long COVID
Marchese says, "Long COVID is the continuation of symptoms that last at least two months after the initial COVID-19 infection. Many doctors diagnose long COVID after about 12 weeks without resolution of some symptoms, such as cough, shortness of breath or cardiac issues. Long COVID can affect anyone regardless of whether it's their first or subsequent COVID infection. Experts estimate that about 10% to 30% of patients experience long COVID after recovery from the initial illness."
The Long-Term Effects of Long COVID
Marchese tells us, "Long-term effects of long COVID can involve any organ system that retained long-lasting cellular damage from the COVID-19 virus. The most common complications of long-COVID include muscle weakness, brain dysfunction (such as brain fog or confusion), loss of taste and smell, and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat). However, post-COVID symptoms can affect any sensitive tissues in the body, such as the digestive tract, respiratory system or kidneys. Chronic kidney disease after COVID may necessitate dialysis in some patients, while others may need prescription heart medication indefinitely."
According to Marchese, "Anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, headaches, insomnia, dizziness, changes in smell or taste, and paresthesia (pins and needles feeling) all indicate long-term neurological damage after COVID-19. These symptoms may last several weeks or months, and few treatment options exist. If you're experiencing continuing neurological symptoms after a COVID-19 diagnosis, note when they started and what makes them better or worse. Your health care provider can use that information to run tests and rule out other illnesses while developing a treatment plan."
Symptoms of Blood Clots
"COVID-19 is notorious for increasing the risk of blood clots and associated complications, such as pulmonary embolism or stroke," Marchese states. "Knowing the symptoms of a blood clot is vital so you can receive treatment quickly. A blood clot in the leg, known as deep vein thrombosis, can make the leg painful, red, warm or swollen. Blood clots that travel to the lung often cause cough, shortness of breath, or pain with deep breaths. Signs of a stroke caused by a blood clot include slurred speech, changes in vision, confusion or weakness in one side of the body or face."
Marchese explains, "Long COVID tends to affect the heart by causing chest pain, rapid heartbeat or decreased blood flow. Blood clots can also affect how much oxygen the heart receives, potentially causing a heart attack. If you feel like your heart rate is abnormal, or you are experiencing issues in circulation, such as paresthesia or dizziness when standing, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Patients with long-COVID may require heart medication to control their heart rate or prevent heart attack."
Marchese shares, "COVID-19 can affect the gut, causing inflammation and damaging sensitive digestive tissues. Symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea can persist long after the initial infection. Stomach pain may also indicate that you have long-lasting damage from COVID-19. If left untreated, persistent stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea can lead to chronic digestive illness or colorectal cancer. If you're experiencing digestive issues after a COVID-19 infection, keep track of when they occur and what foods you're eating. Your doctor can prescribe medications to ease symptoms and prevent long-lasting damage to the gut and digestive tract." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.