Dizziness and coughing and fevers oh my!

How long COVID is affecting people across America

Chart showing the various symptoms of long COVID


Chart showing the various symptoms of long COVID

Alyssa Davis, Staff Reporter

Blurred vision, breathlessness, a headache. Coughs rack your body as you struggle to get up, but you can’t. Your joints hurt and you can’t travel very far without becoming exhausted. According to Yale Medicine, this is what it is like to have long COVID.

Long COVID is a post-COVID condition where a range of new, ongoing, or returning health problems that are associated with COVID-19 afflict a person who has contracted the virus at least four weeks prior. Even people who experienced no symptoms of the virus can get long COVID.

The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that around 52 percent of teens and young adults between the ages of 16 and 30 may experience lingering symptoms up to six months after having COVID.

Unfortunately, experts don’t know much about long COVID, since it is a fairly new phenomenon. What they do know is that there is a trend in how severe long COVID can be.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states, “The specific symptoms your child has could depend on how severe their COVID infection was. For instance, if your child was in the intensive care unit (ICU) on a ventilator, they might have fatigue and weak muscles, as well as a fast heart rate and brain fog.”

This means that the worse your COVID experience was, the worse your post-COVID experience will be. This, however, doesn’t explain why people who were asymptomatic experience the lingering symptoms they didn’t have. So people who showed no indication of even being sick have experienced symptoms weeks after recovering.

Because knowledge on this condition is limited, most doctors don’t even know how long COVID happens, much less how to treat the sickness itself. For the time being, it seems that doctors are targeting specific symptoms for treatment. People who visit the Yale Program are directed to a series of subspecialists that have expertise in a specific area since long COVID can affect organs and different parts of the body.

“Treatment tends to be most effective when it addresses each symptom individually. A child with chest pain and decreasing physical conditioning will be referred for a cardiac evaluation, for instance, while one with cognitive challenges will be seen by a neurologist.” An article from Yale Medicine explains.

Thankfully, experts believe there is a method to reduce the chance of getting long COVID by half. Getting vaccinated. Research done by King’s College London suggests that getting two doses of the vaccine can halve the risk of long COVID developing. Unfortunately, they also found that getting vaccinated can change nothing at all.

With many answers still in limbo, cases of long COVID continue to rise. Penn State University found that around half of all people who get COVID will continue to experience symptoms up to six months after recovery. Currently, professionals believe that long COVID is related to a person’s weakened immune system after contracting the virus.

“These symptoms could result from immune-system overdrive triggered by the virus, lingering infection, reinfection, or increased production of autoantibodies (antibodies directed at their own tissues). The SARS-CoV-2 virus, the agent that causes COVID-19, can access, enter and live in the nervous system. As a result, nervous system symptoms such as taste or smell disorders, memory impairment, and decreased attention and concentration commonly occur in survivors.” said Penn State College of Medicine. 

One thing specialists do know is that early intervention is crucial for improving the quality of life in survivors. Penn State College of Medicine predicts that in the years to come there will be an influx of patients who psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD, that were healthy before being infected with COVID-19. This would lead to an increase in demand for medical care, which would overwhelm health care systems, especially in low or middle-income areas.

Specialists are hoping that the findings from their studies will help create a treatment plan for long COVID.

“Since survivors may not have the energy or resources to go back and forth to their health care providers, one-stop clinics will be critical to effectively and efficiently manage patients with long COVID, such clinics could reduce medical costs and optimize access to care, especially in populations with historically larger health care disparities,” explained Dr. Anna Ssentongo.

With the end nowhere in sight, long COVID continues to inflict suffering on hundreds of people every day. Hopefully, a proper treatment plan will be developed by doctors soon to ensure that once COVID is over, it really is over.