You may have heard the phrase ‘long Covid’. But what does this mean and should you be worried about it?
Long Covid syndrome refers to people who are no longer testing positive for the virus but are still experiencing effects.
How long it takes to recover from COVID-19 is different for everybody. Many people feel better in a few days or weeks and most will make a full recovery within 12 weeks. But for some people the symptoms can last longer. Which is what the term long Covid refers to.
It is a complex condition for us professionals to understand. Because the chances of having long-term symptoms does not seem to be linked to how ill you are when you first get the virus. While people who had mild symptoms at first can still have long-term problems afterwards.
Many people assume that because Covid is a respiratory virus, long Covid must only mean longer-term problems with the lungs for older people. But the symptoms people report after having the virus are incredibly broad and can affect all ages.
Persistent fatigue is one of the more common symptoms of long Covid, with a BBC report citing one in 50 had long Covid, and more than half a million reported symptoms lasting more than a year.
People’s problems range from breathlessness, ‘brain fog’ or lack of concentration, muscle aches, chest pains, right through to more serious health issues and - in rarer cases - longer-term damage to the body’s organs.
Scientists are currently looking into how long Covid affects the body, with initial opinion that it is linked to an inflammatory response. But more work needs to be done to fully understand the condition.
It is not clear what will happen to long Covid in the future. It may be a lingering result of the virus which will always happen, or will it fade away as our immunity improves? Studies have suggested vaccination does reduce the risk of long Covid but does not eliminate it.
If you are recovering from Covid – as many of us will be in the coming months - then the same rules apply to recovering from any other virus. Don’t over-do it too quickly. Make sure you rest, keep hydrated, eat healthily and use regular painkillers if you need them.
There is nothing specifically you can do to avoid getting long-Covid, nor is long Covid contagious by itself. Your risk, and recovery, will be down to how your own body reacts which is different for every person.
There should be no need to seek medical advice for the most common symptoms of long-Covid, but if you are having debilitating symptoms, or symptoms for more than four weeks, then NHS advise you to seek further help.
I hope this helps explain what people mean by the term ‘long covid’.