What is Long-Haul COVID-19?
Up to one-third of people who recover from COVID-19 end up facing lasting or new symptoms for months afterward. Most are people who had mild or no symptoms.
Long-haul COVID is when symptoms continue well beyond the expected three to five week recovery period.
A wide array of symptoms have been reported, but the most common are:
- Fatigue and brain fog
- New allergies and cough
- Racing heartbeat
Since there is no test for long-haul COVID, official diagnosis is mainly self-reported as symptoms can be vague or seem unrelated.
The lines between long-haul COVID and regular recovery can get blurry because people who had a severe illness take more time to recover, especially if they were in an ICU or on a ventilator.
Why Does Long-Haul COVID Happen?
The fact that some infections trigger lasting effects is not a new concept within medicine. Conditions such as Lyme disease can lead to lifelong impacts.
The presence of additional factors, such as a medical condition or age, may contribute to a more severe cases of COVID-19 in some people. However, it’s not the same with long-haul COVID.
Active, fit or otherwise healthy people are just as likely to have lingering symptoms. Women also appear to be disproportionately affected, with some describing changes in their menstrual cycles, worsening cramps or heavy bleeding.
Additionally, symptoms like loss of taste and smell are expected to take some time to return to normal because the nerves affected take a long time to redevelop.
How Do Professionals Treat Long-Haul COVID?
If you suspect you are suffering from long-haul COVID, set yourself up for success by giving your body (and immune system) what it needs: rest and support.
- Stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet
- Rest when you feel tired
- Try mild exercise to help you get over the worst of it faster.
Post-infection vaccination is another recommended step to provide your immune system the key to the lock that is COVID-19.
If you are fully vaccinated and get a breakthrough case of COVID, it will likely be much milder. You also are 49% less likely to end up with lingering symptoms.
Tips for Dealing with Long-Haul COVID
The best way to avoid long-haul COVID is to avoid getting sick or to be proactive in the treatment of symptoms while in isolation and beyond if you do.
“Take it slow, listen to your body and keep your doctor in the loop,” said Avera Medical Group internal medicine physician Comfort Agaba, MD. “When dealing with long-haul COVID, your provider may help you make sure things don’t go downhill.”
You can do your part to prevent getting sick or cut the risk of getting long-haul COVID by:
- Getting vaccinated
- Social distancing
- Washing your hands
- Staying home when you are sick and,
- Helping protect those around you.
These precautions are still important whether you are recovering from COVID or vaccinated. The vaccine now is available to everyone 5 and older. Find a vaccine location near you.
Mandi Reinders, RN, BSN, is a nurse case manager for Avera Medical Group Internal Medicine