How to Spot the Signs of Long Covid — and What to Do Next

Strange and sometimes debilitating symptoms lasting long past the original bout of sickness are presenting in many people who’ve had Covid-19. The WHO estimates that 10-20 percent of people are experiencing new or lingering symptoms three months after infection.

When we consider just how many people have been infected with Covid-19, that amounts to millions of people dealing with persistent, ongoing symptoms. A recent preprint study out of Israel suggests that vaccinated people may have a lower risk of developing long Covid symptoms.

The good news is that most with long Covid do seem to get better over time without treatment, says Katz, the principal investigator of the NIH-funded Recover Initiative to study the long-term effects of Covid-19.

“Many people who have had Covid and who haven’t recovered are starting to look very much like ME/CFS patients,” says Lucinda Bateman, founder and medical director of the Bateman Horne Center, and an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

A systematic review published in November 2021 in the journal Frontiers in Medicine identified more than 100 possible symptoms that have been associated with long Covid. The most common ones noted in the research are those that are associated with the initial Covid-19 infection, such as loss of taste and smell, respiratory symptoms, chest pain, fever, and headaches.

Another major symptom is post-exertional malaise, which is a fancy way of saying that you are completely spent after doing even basic activities.

Check in with a health care provider as soon as you can

While there’s no diagnostic test for long Covid, it’s still important to seek care if you’re experiencing symptoms like this. Also, it’s possible to be reinfected, so if you’re suddenly experiencing new Covid-like symptoms after you’ve recovered from the initial infection, your first step should be getting tested to make sure it’s not another round of Covid-19.

Look for a post-Covid clinic in your area

Seeing several different specialists can be pricey, time-consuming, and exhausting, and is likely to be out of reach for millions of Americans.

At least 44 hospitals in the US have established post-Covid clinics as of August 2021, though there isn’t an exhaustive list of these facilities. To find one in your area, try searching for “post-Covid clinic near me” or visiting the website of any large teaching hospitals nearby, which may have one or can refer you to one.

Give yourself a break (both physically and metaphorically)

Bateman’s advice for long Covid patients is similar to the advice given to people with ME/CFS: “The first thing is to be very patient and give your body a chance to heal.

Do what you can to take care of your mental health

The subject of mental health is a tricky one when it comes to long Covid because while it’s true that mental health resources can be helpful for patients, that fact can also be used to imply that the symptoms are psychosomatic.

“It’s so easy to blame an illness like this on anxiety or depression or PTSD, which just isn’t appropriate: This is a devastating, physical, post-viral, inflammatory, and neurologic illness,” says Bateman. That said, it’s also true that mental health support — whether that’s in the form of psychotherapy, medication, counseling, or mindfulness approaches — can be invaluable for alleviating the psychological toll of living with a chronic condition.

Excerpted from “How to Spot the Signs of Long Covid — and What to Do Next” in Vox. Read the full article online for more details.

Source: Vox | How to Spot the Signs of Long Covid — and What to Do Next, | © 2022 Vox Media, LLC

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