COVID-19 has had devastating effects on a lot of people since it was first recorded in late December 2019. Many are those who have died, lost relatives and jobs. But a percentage of the population who survived is battling with symptoms long after recovering from the deadly virus. These symptoms are called the Long-haul symptoms but some medical professionals call it “long-COVID” or “post COVID-19 syndrome.”
“As things progress, hopefully, the terminology will settle on one or another,” said Dr Matthew J. Ashley, a neurologist at the Centre for Neuro Skills in California.
Whatever you call it, the long-term effects of COVID-19 are estimated to affect 25 to 30 per cent of Trusted Source of people who’ve had the disease. Medical professionals are still accessing the effects and the treatment for such people battling with Long-Haul symptoms.
“There are a lot of emerging and serious long-term consequences of COVID-19 that relate back to the illness but are separate and distinct things,” he said, “such as stroke, heart attack, anoxic brain injury, Guillain-Barré syndrome, pulmonary embolism, DVT, etc., that occur in some patients because of COVID-19 and its consequences.”
“Then there are the unfortunate people who end up spending weeks in the hospital and ICU who experience associated complications from that, including post-ICU syndrome, PTSD, or the like,” Ashley added. “Whether this is part of the ‘long-haulier’ syndrome or not, it certainly causes significant long-term consequences for people and deserves attention.”
What are the Common long-haul symptoms?
Some common long-term symptoms are shortness of breath during exercise and an altered sense of smell and taste. Some people have lingering headaches, joint pain, or cough. And many cite “brain fog” as a problem.
“As a neurologist, I don’t much care for this term. But it does aptly describe the symptoms of cognitive fatigue and difficulty with attention and focus that many people are describing as a long-term effect,” Ashley said.
“Some people might just feel a bit ‘off’ cognitively. Others describe difficulty with even simple things like paying bills or sending an email,” he said.
Another problem that can impair daily functioning is fatigue.
“Many people who get COVID-19 are experiencing this long-term symptom,” Ashley said. “The intensity varies from person to person, but many are having difficulty performing even basic daily activities like getting around their living environment or doing their weekly shopping routines, let alone returning to work, parenting, exercise, etc.”
A Long-Hauler Awo Danso works in the public sector in Ghana. She said the tickle in her throat started in April. Awo said she didn’t realize it was probably the first sign of COVID-19.
Then the “COVID-19 toes,” where her feet were swollen that she couldn’t wear shoes. That was followed by a 12-day fever. Along the way, Awo has had swollen lymph nodes, rapid heart rate, and crisis-level hypertension. Add to those out-of-whack thyroid hormones, high cholesterol, and anaemia.
Awo puts in a full workday, but it still doesn’t match her pre-COVID-19 level. She likened the feeling to someone pulling the plug on an electrical device with no battery backup, as in “everything goes at once.”
Dealing with symptoms
“COVID-19 has the capacity to infect and affect many different tissues. The ongoing pandemic and other events are stressors and clearly adding to the difficulties for many,” Awo told the media in an interview.
She recommends considering your body as its own guide.
“If you’re feeling exhausted, it’s important to figure out how much sleep you’re actually getting. Falling asleep and staying asleep is an issue for many individuals,” Awo said.
“If you’re getting unrefreshing sleep, even though you’re in bed a normal number of hours, work on your sleep hygiene.”
Returning to exercise can be a challenge. If you can’t get back to your pre-COVID-19 level right away, take things slowly and don’t push it, Health experts’ advice.
They also advise that if you have toe or leg swelling, elevate your legs for 15 to 20 minutes a few times a day. Sleep disorders, for example, can be treated.
“Sleep is a time when the immune system and brain are doing a lot of work,” she said.
“When you’re not getting enough quality sleep, you potentially interrupt these important aspects of the body rebuilding itself to be able to withstand the next round of stressors.”
Speak to your doctor or any treatment centre right away if you have symptoms of a blood clot, which can lead to stroke. And seek immediate medical attention if you have: trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, rapid weight loss or gain, inability to eat or drink, gastrointestinal problems and trouble staying awake.
This story is supported by Journalists for Human Rights under the Mobilizing Media to Fighting Coivd-19 pandemic.