Post-Covid Syndrome, also known as Long Covid, prolongs the symptoms of coronavirus in an individual, even after testing negative. Learn more about the syndrome, its treatment and how to avoid it.
In the past year, we have seen the pandemic situation improving where public events began to reemerge and movement restrictions were eased. Despite this, the virus has not completely gone and we still have to be on alert. If you have ever had COVID, you know how exhausting the condition is but with proper treatment, most can recover from the illness in a week or so, especially if they have been vaccinated.
However, for some, the symptoms might remain longer than expected, even after a negative COVID test result. Coughing episodes may persist as well as breathing difficulties and a “brain fog”. To make matters worse, these symptoms seem to endure, lasting for weeks and even months. This is known as post-COVID syndrome or long COVID.
WHAT IS LONG COVID?
Long COVID is a syndrome where one experiences coronavirus symptoms even after testing negative. The symptoms range from coughing to fever and fatigue. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, these may extend to health problems targeting other organs including chest pain, heart palpitation, diarrhea and muscle pain. Someone with long COVID may also still experience anosmia which is a loss of smell.
The syndrome not only affects our physical condition but our mental state also. Research found a relationship between long COVID and our mental state. Referring to several studies, the article notes that depression is a common side effect of long COVID. The condition might also trigger sleep issues, according to Sleep Foundation, around 31% of individuals with long COVID experience sleep problems.
Unfortunately, these symptoms can remain for a long time, lasting weeks in some people and months or even years in others. The exact period itself would depend on the person’s overall health condition. As for now, experts are still studying this condition to further understand the causes.
THE RISK FACTORS
Long COVID occurs post-infection. However, not everyone experiences this condition. This leads us to ask “Who is at a risk?”. A study conducted by Asadi-Pooya et al. in 2021 found that there are three main risk factors associated with the condition: gender, health problems at the onset of the infection and the severity of COVID. Women and individuals with comorbidities—particularly respiratory issues—are more likely to have long COVID. Patients with severe COVID are also at risk of the syndrome.
That’s not all. A study conducted in 2022 by Subramanian et al. found other risk factors, such as age, smoking habits and obesity place you at risk of experiencing long COVID. The older the person, the greater the risk is. If you smoke, you are also at a greater risk of having long COVID and the same thing goes for obese people. Nevertheless, anyone can still have the syndrome regardless of the risk factors after the infection period.
TRIGGERING OTHER PROBLEMS
You may wonder if the syndrome can lead to other health problems. It’s not long COVID that triggers these effects; it’s the COVID infection itself. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention points out that besides the post-infection symptoms, the virus can trigger autoimmune conditions and issues targeting several organs, including the lungs, kidneys, heart, skin and brain, meaning that one is more likely to develop new conditions after having COVID.
Supporting this statement, an article from the University of Utah which analyzed results from several studies, found that individuals with COVID have more than twice the risk of stroke. The virus triggers an inflammatory response that results in blood thickening, which might later lead to blood clotting—the cause of stroke. In addition to this, a person having experienced COVID has a risk of a heart attack three to eight times greater than normal.
COVID also carries increased diabetes risk. According to Clare Watson in an article on Nature.com, the risk of diabetes becomes higher and can last to a year after one is infected with the virus. With all the things mentioned, the virus has a big potential to cause an array of health problems.
TREATING THE SYNDROME
There is no specific way to treat long COVID. The syndrome can last for weeks or months depending on one’s condition and most of the time, the symptoms will disappear by themselves. We can, however, alleviate the symptoms by taking proper medicines. A lifestyle change might also help, including consuming healthier food and exercising regularly. If the symptoms persist or worsen, you can always see the doctor.
Of course, your best shot is to avoid catching the virus “in the first place.” Physical distancing, especially in public places, remains one of the most important precautions to take. Always wear a mask in public and avoid large crowds. Wash your hands thoroughly and keep an eye on the symptoms. With these steps, you can protect yourself and prevent the spread of the virus. Just like the old saying, “Prevention is better than cure.”
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