Understanding ‘Long COVID’

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Understanding ‘Long COVID’

Much has been said about the immediate signs and symptoms of having COVID. But what about the long-term effects of the disease?

Effects of COVID that last weeks or months after diagnosis is sometimes called post-COVID syndrome or Long COVID. Lingering symptoms can affect people of any age, including those with serious medical conditions and those who are otherwise healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health effects of COVID that may continue over time include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Headache
  • Changes in smell or taste
  • Fever
  • Heart complications
  • Chronic kidney impairment
  • Stroke

Although COVID is known as a disease that primarily affects the lungs, it can also damage the heart, kidneys, and brain. Much of the heart damage caused by COVID is believed to stem from small clots that block blood vessels in the heart muscle.

The Mayo Clinic further states that COVID can make an individual more likely to later develop post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, and anxiety. As of July 2021, Long COVID can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. An individualized assessment is necessary to determine whether a person’s Long COVID condition substantially limits a major life activity.

Researchers continue to study the long-term effects of COVID. The National Institutes of Health has launched RECOVER, a research initiative that seeks to understand, prevent, and treat Long COVID.

In the meantime, many healthcare organizations have created specialized clinics or programs for people who have persistent symptoms or related illnesses after they recover from COVID, such as post-COVID pulmonary rehab. Support groups also are available.