If the first two years of COVID-19 were marked by mass hospitalizations and death, it’s more of the same in year three, but with one very troubling syndrome that could result from infection.
That syndrome is known as long COVID or post-COVID, which occurs when people experience a series of symptoms that can linger weeks or months after COVID-19 infection.
While it normally takes people two weeks to recover from mild or moderate COVID-19 infection, a person with long COVID can experience symptoms like shortness of breath, extreme tiredness and cognitive dysfunction, among other effects. For some, long COVID symptoms can be so severe that it impacts their daily life, putting them out of work or worse.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 24 million have long COVID and about 80% of them reported having trouble carrying out day-to-day activities because of it.
Long COVID is proof that this disease isn’t disappearing any time soon.
Here are four concerning facts about long COVID symptoms that you should know about:
The Unvaccinated Are Most at Risk
People who have not been vaccinated against COVID are most at risk for developing lingering post COVID symptoms, reports the CDC. This August 2022 study suggests that vaccination was associated with the reduced risk of patients getting long COVID, with two vaccine shots being more effective than one.
Long COVID Can Erase a Decade’s Worth of Fitness Gains
One of the latest findings on long COVID symptoms demonstrates its utter severity. A JAMA Open Network study found that people with post COVID symptoms have a reduced capacity to exercise. Even going up a flight of stairs or walking can leave someone with long COVID winded.
The study aggregated nine other experiments that examined people with long COVID symptoms and those without to see how infection impacted their ability to sustain exercise. People without long COVID were able to regain their ability to work out normally. But those with long COVID ended up exhibiting the stamina of someone 10 years older. “…Forty-year-olds would jog or cycle like “someone in their fifties,” a doctor who led the study told the Washington Post.
Long COVID Symptoms Are Disabling Black Americans and Latinos the Most
Over a 12-day period in September, the CDC found that 25% of all adults reported limitations in carrying out day-to-day activities because of long COVID. But those figures jumped to almost 40% for African Americans and Latinos. The reasons can be traced to the fact that Black and Latin Americans suffer more from underlying conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes than White people. Having one of those underlying conditions can be a risk factor for developing long COVID.
Long COVID Can Cause Even More Health Problems
It’s true. Having long COVID can produce what the CDC calls multiorgan effects, or autoimmune conditions that can linger for weeks or months after initial infection. It means that someone can develop health conditions that impact the brain, heart, lungs, skin and kidneys. They can even get ailments like diabetes, heart and neurological conditions.