Long-Haul COVID: What Is It and Why Should We Be Alarmed? Part I


 

Throughout the early days of the pandemic, we largely focused on the urgent issues brought about by the disease, and for good reason: the rates of infection, hospitalization, and death were staggering.

Now, as we strive to vaccinate as many Americans as possible, the long-term consequences of COVID are beginning to cause a greater degree of alarm. Known as long-haul COVID, this issue strikes a significant share of patients, many of whom can expect to experience several months of suffering. This reminds us that the concerns of COVID go far beyond the death rate and could have dramatic impacts on general quality of life in years to come.

What Is Long-Haul COVID? Which Symptoms Tend to Linger?

As mentioned above, long-haul COVID occurs when the disease’s symptoms continue to plague patients long after they’re expected to disappear. Interestingly, this doesn’t appear to be a problem exclusively for those who have been hospitalized or otherwise suffered with severe illness. In fact, those with seemingly minor symptoms are nearly as likely to be affected long after the disease’s onset.

Fatigue, in particular, tends to linger, with research suggesting that nearly half of those with mild cases of COVID continue to experience this key symptom several months after their initial diagnosis. Other problems that may prove stubborn include:

  • Insomnia
  • Memory problems
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Joint pain

What About Long-Term Symptoms in the Severely Ill?

While long-term issues such as fatigue tend to be more common, those with severe COVID cases may also be prone to extended suffering. Among these patients, fatigue may be accompanied by lung, heart, and kidney problems. Others experience psychiatric issues such as depression. As Dr. Luis Ostrosky tells WebMD, these concerns explain why “COVID-19 is not a dichotomy of you die, or you’re fine.”