What is Long COVID?

Whilst Long Covid research is still ongoing and researchers are yet to find any concrete correlations, early indications suggest that age may play a role in developing Long Covid and women are slightly more at risk. The range of symptoms experienced within the first week of contracting the virus is also thought to play a significant role. Someone who suffered from only a cough within the first week would be less likely to contract Long Covid than someone who had a cough, loss of smell, fatigue, loss of appetite and headaches, for example. The severity of symptoms doesn’t seem to link to the likelihood of developing Long Covid, as even those with mild Coronavirus symptoms could develop long term after effects.

Pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and lung, kidney or heart disease may all raise the risk of contracting Long Covid.

At the same time, young and otherwise healthy people with no pre-existing conditions are also suffering from Long Covid so it can strike anyone.

Studies suggest that conservatively, one in three individuals who contract COVID-19 are likely to experience lingering symptoms or to develop new symptoms 28 days or longer after the initial onset of disease. This lingering condition is often referred to as Long COVID, PASC (Post Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2) or Post COVID Syndrome. Long COVID symptoms can vary in intensity, type and duration depending on the individual.

Long COVID is used to describe signs and symptoms that last for longer than 4 weeks after getting COVID-19. In this section, we explain in more detail what Long COVID is, the common symptoms and when you might feel back to normal.

There are two stages to what is commonly known as Long COVID:

It can affect your whole body, and your symptoms can change and come and go over time. If you think you might have Long COVID, the first thing you should do is speak to your GP. They will investigate your symptoms and first try to find out if there are any other possible causes, to see if there’s anything that needs urgent action.

What symptoms are experienced by someone with Long COVID?

Early in the pandemic, Survivor Corps published the first study on patient reported experiences with COVID-19 recovery documenting a multitude of physical and mental health symptoms. These findings have been confirmed by other Long COVID studies and documented by physicians. Symptoms may involve multiple organ systems and the severity of symptoms can vary from hair loss, to chronic pain, to brain fog, to severe cardiac or pulmonary impairment, to altered sense or taste or smell. A symptom checklist is available on our website. In December 2020, the NIH (National Institute of Health) held their first conference on Long COVID, followed by discussions at the World Health Organization and other medical societies.

Can anyone get Long COVID?

Yes. Both children and adults can experience long COVID symptoms. Long COVID symptoms can develop after severe, mild or asymptomatic cases of COVID.

How long do symptoms last?

Symptoms may resolve on their own over time, or remain a constant struggle for survivors for many months or longer.

How are Long COVID symptoms treated?

Successful medical intervention strategies are in development. A number of specialized, multidisciplinary, or multi-subspecialty care centers are opening in the UK and around the world, but concrete care pathways are still very much a work in progress. Long COVID complications vary greatly, and the disease’s full long-term impact is still unknown.

An array of specialists work with patients including: GPs , Behavioral Health Specialists, Pulmonologists, Neurologists, Cardiologists, Gastroenterologists, ENTs, Pain Specialists and other physicians. Rehab and recovery therapies are being offered, as well as mental health support within a structured multidisciplinary center like Harley Street Consulting Clinics.

What causes Long COVID?

What causes some people to fully recover from COVID and others to develop Long COVID symptoms is unclear and a number of theories are being explored including organ damage from acute infection, ongoing inflammation, a persistent viral reservoir, an inadequate antibody or T cell response, and other possibilities.

What research is being done to help increase our understanding of Long COVID?

COVID’s impact on multi-organ systems, the autonomic nervous system, mental health and ability to function are all being explored. Public health considerations, such as Long COVID’s impact on communities that experience disparities in health care, job, food and housing security as well as the immunocompromised, are of particular concern. Some studies on Long COVID have already begun, and additional studies are expected in the future that focus on Long COVID symptoms, care and recovery in both children and adults.

Is COVID the only virus that causes long-term symptoms?

COVID is not the only virus that causes long term symptoms in patients. Long COVID has been likened to other post-viral conditions such as myalgic encephalomyelitis/ chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), dysautonomia or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) and Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS).