What is Long COVID?


The majority of people who become infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) will go on to develop mild to moderate COVID-19 and will recover fully in 2-4 weeks. A small proportion of people, currently thought to be approximately 20% of those infected, continue to suffer with symptoms for weeks or months post-infection. In the UK, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) use the following clinical definitions to distinguish the initial infection and disease at different time points:


Acute COVID-19: Symptoms lasting up to 4 weeks.

Ongoing symptomatic COVID-19: Symptoms lasting between 4 and 12 weeks.

Post-COVID-19 syndrome: Symptoms that develop during or after SARS-CoV-2 infection that last over 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.

Although experiencing symptoms for longer than 4 weeks only appears to affect about one-fifth of those who develop COVID-19, given the sheer number of total infections, long COVID will have a profound effect on individuals and healthcare systems.

What Are the Symptoms of Ongoing Symptomatic COVID-19 and Post-COVID-19 Syndrome? Symptoms after acute COVID-19 (long COVID) are wide-ranging and appear to vary widely from person to person. However, the most commonly reported symptoms include:

  • Respiratory symptoms including breathlessness and cough,
  • Cardiovascular symptoms including chest tightness and pain and palpitations,
  • Neurological symptoms such as headache, dizziness, peripheral neuropathy, cognitive disturbance and insomnia,
  • Muscular-skeletal symptoms including joint and muscle pain
  • Generalized symptoms including fatigue, pain and fever

One recently published study analyzed data collected as part of a COVID-19 follow-up clinical service. The service aimed to assess a range of symptoms in people who had been admitted to hospital with COVID-19, 4-6 weeks following their discharge.

The authors also found that developing five specific symptoms during the first week of COVID-19 symptom onset was most predictive of developing long COVID. These included: fatigue, headache, breathlessness, hoarse voice and muscular pain.

Although more research into long COVID is required, this information could help to determine those at the highest risk of long-term symptoms, design early-intervention trials and help target healthcare resources in the future.

Source: Knight, Clare. (2021, February 23). What is Long COVID?. News-Medical. Retrieved on December 10, 2021 from https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Long-COVID.aspx.


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