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Post-Covid Symptoms Are Debilitating

How many people are suffering post-COVID symptoms? It could be millions! Many were not initially very sick, but now they are suffering!

Many people insist that more than 99% of the people who catch COVID-19 recover. They maintain that it’s just not that big a deal, even though nearly 30 million people have caught the coronavirus in the US and more than 536,000 have died. What they have not considered, though, is that a lot of people experience post-COVID symptoms. The number of people who could suffer long-term consequences of post-COVID syndrome (PCS) could be staggering.

What Is the Incidence of Long COVID?

No one really knows how many people will develop post-COVID symptoms. It could take months or even years to fully assess the consequences of the coronavirus. That said, estimates range from 10% to 30% of COVID-19 patients may develop this thing called Long-COVID. Such patients are often referred to as “long haulers.”

An article in JAMA Network Open (Feb. 19, 2021) describes Long-COVID this way: 

“Many individuals experience persistent symptoms and a decline in health-related quality of life (HRQoL) after coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) illness.”

The researchers wanted to know how long the symptoms last and how many people are affected:

“In this cohort of individuals with COVID-19 who were followed up for as long as 9 months after illness, approximately 30% reported persistent symptoms. A unique aspect of our cohort is the high proportion of outpatients with mild disease. Persistent symptoms were reported by one-third of outpatients in our study, consistent with a previously reported study, in which 36% of outpatients had not returned to baseline health by 14 to 21 days following infection. However, this has not been previously described 9 months after infection.”

Another study from the UK published in the BMJ (Aug. 11, 2020) suggests that:

“Approximately 10% of people experience prolonged illness after covid-19.”

Whether the true incidence of post-COVID syndrome is 30%, 10% or 1%, the consequences could be disastrous. Given that we will soon surpass 30 million people with COVID in this country, 10% would represent 3 million people with post-COVID symptoms. Even people who had mild cases with few complications can become long haulers.

What Are Post-COVID Symptoms?

The CDC describes the most common long-term symptoms of COVID-19 infection as (Nov. 13, 2020): 

“The most commonly reported long-term symptoms include:

• Fatigue
• Shortness of breath
• Cough
• Joint pain
• Chest pain

“Other reported long-term symptoms include:

• Difficulty with thinking and concentration (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
• Depression
• Muscle pain
• Headache
• Intermittent fever
• Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)

“More serious long-term complications appear to be less common but have been reported. These have been noted to affect different organ systems in the body. These include:

• Cardiovascular: inflammation of the heart muscle
• Respiratory: lung function abnormalities
• Renal: acute kidney injury
• Dermatologic: rash, hair loss
• Neurological: smell and taste problems, sleep issues, difficulty with concentration, memory problems
• Psychiatric: depression, anxiety, changes in mood

“The long-term significance of these effects is not yet known.”

People who may have only experienced mild symptoms during the initial infection sometimes find that months later they are still suffering fatigue, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, brain fog, headache and muscle pain.

What About POTS?

Another complication of post-COVID syndrome may be POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). In this condition, people may experience palpitations or lightheadedness as well as severe fatigue. When they stand, their heart rate my soar and they may become dizzy or faint.

Researchers at the University of Toledo have identified five inflammatory markers that suggest that POTS may have an auto-immune origin (Journal of Clinical Medicine, Feb. 6, 2021). Investigators in the UK are intrigued by reports that some long-COVID sufferers may have reduced symptoms after vaccination. They hypothesize that the shot may reset the immune system in some as yet undetermined way.

Final Words:

You can learn more about Long-COVID by listening to our podcast with two health professionals who themselves are long haulers. Here is a link to Show # 1230: What Happens When COVID Symptoms Don’t Go Away.

If you have suffered from post-COVID symptoms, please share your experience in the comment section below. If you believe that COVID-19 is no big deal, how do you respond to people who are long haulers? Remember, many of these people did not experience severe illness when they first caught COVID-19. But now they are suffering. 

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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