Most people who contract COVID-19 (aka SARS-CoV-2 infection) recover within 4 to 5 weeks. However, some individuals experience persistent or new COVID-19 symptoms for weeks and months after this initial phase of the infection. Referred to as “long COVID” or “post-COVID-19”, this post-infection condition affects around 37% of those who contract COVID-19. According to a recent Oxford study, this group of individuals report continued symptoms 3 to 6 months after the initial illness. Fatigue, pain and anxiety are among the most common symptoms, Oxford University said after investigating symptoms in over 270,000 people recovering from COVID-19. For some people, many parts of the body are affected in long COVID, including the heart, brain and the gut. Heart symptoms are commonly reported, such as palpitations or increased heartbeat, as well as pins and needles, numbness and “brain fog”.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published a clinical case definition of post-COVID-19:
“Post-COVID-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, usually 3 months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms that last for at least 2 months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.”
“Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction but also others, which generally have an impact on everyday functioning. Symptoms may be new onset, following initial recovery from an acute COVID-19 episode, or persist from the initial illness. Symptoms may also fluctuate or relapse over time.” Anxiety, depression, pain, and changes in hearing, smell, and taste were among the other symptoms that the definition included.
In children, long COVID symptoms can include:
- sore throat
- joint pain
- chest pain
- gastrointestinal problems
- mood swings