The Long Term Effects of COVID-19

Angelina Astic, Copy Editor

As much of the world remains immersed in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine and its distribution, many scientists have embarked on a quest to understand more about the long-term effects of COVID-19 and residual impacts that it could have on those who have contracted the virus. 

Initially, the virus has a whole host of symptoms which can include, but are not limited to: fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, nausea, flu-like muscle aches, sinus congestion, headaches, dryness of throat and loss of taste or smell. 

While the aforementioned symptoms are many of the more commonly seen initial effects of the virus, there remain a multitude of unidentified initial symptoms. Upon exposure to COVID-19, symptoms of contraction appear as early as two to 14 days afterwards, with severity ranging from mild to acute. 

Oftentimes after recovery from an illness such as influenza or a common cold, patients make a full recovery with no major residual effects on their long-term health. However, COVID-19 has proved itself, in more ways than one, much different than the norm. 

Many of those who experience long-term effects of COVID-19 label themselves as “long haulers,” with many medical professionals coining the condition as post-COVID-19 syndrome. This condition does not discriminate those who have experienced the syndrome include a range of different ages, genders, ethnicities, socioeconomic classes, health histories and more. 

Research has shown that those who have mild cases of COVID-19 and never required hospitalization may also experience post-COVID-19 syndrome. Many studies have gone underway since the start of the pandemic to understand more about the syndrome. 

There are currently three broad categories of symptoms that those with post-COVID-19 syndrome could experience. The categories include the common and milder symptoms, more severe, yet still relatively commonly seen symptoms and more serious, uncommon complications. 

The majority of “long-haulers” report symptoms of fatigue, difficulty breathing, persistent cough, body aches and joint pains, difficulty regaining sense of taste and smell, as well as tightness of the chest. 

For those who experience more severe, yet relatively common symptoms, reports show instances of continuous difficulty with concentration, intense muscular pains, chronic headaches, intermittent fevers, heart palpitations and depression. 

After much research, scientists have noticed some serious, life-altering complications in some patients with post-COVID-19 syndrome. Multi-system organ damage in the heart, lungs and brain, blood vessel issues and clots in the heart, liver, legs, kidneys and lungs as well as severe mental ramifications like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and possibly more describe the complications discovered thus far. 

According to surveys of patients, approximately 50% to 80% of patients have reported long-standing symptoms three months after initially contracting the virus and testing did not detect remnants of COVID-19 in the patients. 

For now, scientists continue to encourage research projects to understand more regarding the post-COVID-19 syndrome and how best to treat patients with the condition.

Currently, prevention and helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 is the most important thing that one can do to prevent post-COVID-19 syndrome. Per the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, wear a mask in public settings, wash hands frequently, avoid touching areas on the face, cleanse surfaces, social distance and remain a minimum of six feet between others when outside of the home to complete necessary errands.