While most people can recover from COVID-19 and resume their normal lives, many still show symptoms for months after an initial infection, according to new research from scotland.
A study published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications followed 33,281 people with recent COVID-19 infections, as well as a control group of 62,957 people who had never been infected, to determine which symptoms were most associated. throughout COVID-19. That way, vague symptoms that are often overlooked — like “brain fog” or confusion — might be more definitely linked to long COVID.
The researchers found that among those infected with COVID-19, people who continued to show signs of long COVID were more likely to suffer persistently from 24 of the 26 symptoms tracked. Most often, people with COVID for a long time suffered from shortness of breath, palpitations, brain fog and chest pain. Compared to those who had never had COVID-19, study participants with long COVID symptoms were 3.5 times more likely to report shortness of breath.
The new findings underscore what other research also found: People who had severe COVID-19 infections were more likely to have long COVID symptoms. Additionally, people with asymptomatic infections were less likely to suffer from long COVID.
The study also showed that vaccination may be linked to a lower risk of long COVID and was specifically linked to a reduced risk of developing seven of the 26 symptoms tracked.
But if you have a mild infection and are vaccinated, that doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk of developing long-term symptoms, said Dr Andrew Schamessan internal medicine physician who treats patients in the post-COVID recovery program at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
While participants in the Scottish study were less likely to face long COVID if they were vaccinated and asymptomatic, disease development is still possible – and COVID-19 is an ever-evolving and unpredictable virus.
“You can be vaccinated, you can catch a mild infection [and] you could still find yourself with your life completely turned upside down by a long COVID,” said Schamess, who was not involved in the new research.
In a particularly grim finding, the study found that 6% of infected participants had not recovered from COVID-19 at all, while 42% reported partial recovery six to 18 months after infection. Additionally, older people, women, and people with economic hardship were more likely to suffer from lengthy COVID symptoms.
It should be noted that 91% of study participants were white, so further research is needed to determine the exact impact on other communities.
When does COVID-19 become long COVID?
According to Schamess, long COVID has two definitions. First, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that symptoms lasting a month or more may indicate long COVID.
That said, according to Schamess, many people may need a month to fully recover from COVID-19. Just think of everyone you know (maybe including yourself) who had trouble getting back to training or had a persistent cough for weeks after infection.
“I think the best definition for me is the World Health Organization, which sets three months as a mark” for long COVID, he said. In the Scottish study, symptoms persisted for up to a year and a half after infection.
It is important to continue to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 infections
Although certain factors may put you at higher risk of developing long-lasting COVID, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
First, get your COVID-19 shot and also make sure you’re up to date on your booster. A new bivalent firing targeting the omicron variant is available for ages 5 and up.
Then, if you do get sick, work out a treatment plan with your doctor. Treatments like Paxlovid and short-acting monoclonal antibodies are available for some people, Schamess noted.
Additionally, if you are immunocompromised and cannot mount a good response to the vaccine, you may be eligible to receive Evusheld, “a long-acting monoclonal antibody that gives you extra protection against COVID,” it said. he declares. (However, new data suggests that Evusheld may not protect against all variants, and antibody treatments showed limited efficacy against omicron. So it’s best to talk to your doctor about which approach is right for you.)
Finally, be sure to always take precautions like wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces.
“I think that’s going to be the hidden consequences of the pandemic,” Schamess said of the long COVID.
“As we see fewer immediate deaths and people in the [intensive care unit] … I think as long as COVID is circulating, we’re going to see these long cases of COVID, which can be totally disabling.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but advice may change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most recent recommendations.