Most COVID-19 affected individuals recover from the symptoms of coronavirus infection within a few days. But some patients including those who have a low viral load (mild infection) can experience persistent symptoms lasting for more than four weeks after getting diagnosed as positive with the COVID-19 virus or longer even after their initial recovery.
These long-term health effects (known by people as long haulers or post COVID-19 syndrome) can arise due to damage caused to the brain, lungs, and heart post-infection. Mostly, the health issues and lingering COVID-19 symptoms are found in people who have been suffering from serious medical ailments or the elderly individuals but in some cases, even young and otherwise healthy people can feel sick for weeks to months after infection.
The most commonly reported signs and symptoms that are experienced by people overtime after the infection include:
- Joints, chest, or muscles pain.
- Early or late menstrual periods
- Skin rashes
- Cough and fever
- Pins-and-needles sensation
- Post-exertional malaise (worsening of symptoms after mental or physical activities).
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath – Experts say that the recovery from lung problems i.e. to return to the previous condition. Respiratory therapy and breathing exercises can help resolve this.
- Loss or distortion of senses like smell and taste – Smell and taste are related senses that can get altered or lost entirely because of the effect of coronavirus on the cells lining the nose or tongue. The patients may find that familiar things taste or smell different, bad, or strange. For about a quarter of COVID-19 patients with such symptoms, the senses may become normal within a couple of weeks. If they stay for long, it can be a devastating situation that can lead to a lack of appetite and anxiety or depression.
- Neurologic problems – Medium to long-term neurological symptoms post-COVID-19 infections can develop in some individuals. These include brain fog (i.e. difficulty in concentrating or thinking), fatigue, or extreme tiredness, mood swings, headache (common during and after SARS-CoV-2 infection), light headedness or dizziness, and insomnia (sleep problems). COVID-19 patients who have survived the infection can become more vulnerable to autonomic nervous system symptoms caused by Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (a condition affecting blood circulation).
- Mental health concerns – This includes anxiety or depression. Mental health can be hampered in patients because of their poor general health or as they have to quarantine themselves for long periods, discontinue their earnings leading to financial issues, and experience grief from the deaths of loved ones. Particularly, the hospitalized patients are at higher risk of having challenged recovery because of problems with mental health, physical recovery, and cognition (i.e. post-intensive care syndrome).
- Heart issues – It has been reported that after getting infected with SARS-CoV-2 one can experience heart problems like heart palpitations (pounding or fast heartbeat) or shortness of breath due to inflammation of the heart muscles. This can occur even in mildly-infected people or those without any underlying medical issues before they became COVID-19 patients.
- Kidney damage – If the kidneys get damaged there is a very high risk of chronic kidney disease and the need for dialysis.
- Type 2 diabetes (a risk factor in serious patients) – Most children and teens who had COVID-19 experience symptoms of diabetes like increased thirst and hunger, frequent urination, weight loss, fatigue or tiredness, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach ache.
It is important to take the help of doctor to take effective care of post-COVID-19 complication by taking proper rest, heathy diet and consulting a doctor.