Doctor Answers Five Most Urgent Questions About Long COVID
Many mysteries remain unsolved about COVID-19, and long COVID is one of them. Many patients continue to exhibit an extensive list of symptoms such as fatigue, dry cough, shortness of breath, headaches and muscle aches. We asked a doctor five most urgent questions about long COVID you need to know.
For 90 per cent of patients, the time to recover post-COVID-19 exceeds 35 weeks. A significant number of patients experience prolonged symptoms, known as ‘Long COVID. The most frequent symptoms after 6 months are fatigue, post-exertional malaise and cognitive dysfunction notes eClinical Medicine, a research paper.
Long COVID impacts health in multiple ways. A recent study published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, says that patients continue to suffer from neurological symptoms such as memory impairment, insomnia and decreased concentration. 7 per cent of patients display previously unidentified sets of symptoms including cognitive deficits, tremors and difficulty balancing. We spoke to Dr. Sunita Narreddy, Infectious Diseases Specialist, Apollo Health City, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad to understand Long COVID.
What doctors wish patients knew about Long COVID?
You should know that you are most likely to recover from symptoms of the virus within a few weeks. Only rare conditions cause you to suffer for more than 4 weeks, and that’s when we call the patient a “long hauler” or a patient with Long COVID. However, a proper diagnosis is essential before we attach the term ‘Long COVID to the patient. Most people with COVID-19 are never ill enough to be hospitalised. The only way is to follow up the symptoms if you have tested positive with the virus in the past.
How do you know if you have it?
Some of the common signs and symptoms you should look for include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Joint pain
- Chest pain
- Concentration or sleep problems
- Muscle pain or headache
- Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Loss of smell or taste
- Depression or anxiety
- Dizziness when you stand
- Worsened symptoms after physical or mental activities
Are there any possible ways to prevent long COVID?
Vaccination can prevent Long COVID. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, even if some patients experience breakthrough infections. Patients who are vaccinated have 50 per cent lesser chances to develop long COVID or post-COVID syndrome.
What are some healthy interventions to strengthen the immune system to fight long COVID?
Sleep: The body heals when we sleep. A healthy immune system fights off infections better than a sleep-deprived one. Adults should get between six to eight hours of sleep a night.
Reduce stress levels: Stress directly impacts your immune system. Find ways to reduce stress levels by meditating, exercising and breathing techniques.
Eat a balanced diet: Nutritional deficiencies make us more susceptible to infections caused by viruses and bacteria; eating nutritional food that maintains a healthy immune system is essential.
Get vaccinated: The proven way of improving your immune response, getting the COVID vaccine and booster shot, along with other recommended vaccinations, is best.
How do vaccines work to control Long COVID?
Vaccination triggers an immune response within the body. When a virus enters the body, the immune system prepares to fight it. But it first needs to figure out the attacker, which can be time-consuming— time that helps the virus multiply inside the body. A vaccine introduces the immune system to the virus ahead of time and allows it to prepare. So, when the virus enters the body, the immune system can react quickly. It may result in no symptoms or at least prevent serious illness. A booster shot works as a refresher course.
While it is possible to get infected even if you are vaccinated, the immune system is better prepared to clear the virus rapidly, so the infection is far less likely to be severe or life-threatening.