While many things have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the one constant has been the number of questions about the virus:
- How does COVID-19 spread?
- Where can I find a COVID-19 test?
- Do I have a cold, the flu, allergies, or COVID-19?
Right now, the latest trending question is about the topic of long COVID which is currently impacting 1 in 5 adults in the U.S1.
What is long COVID?
Long COVID refers to the long-term effects that somebody experiences after having the COVID-19 virus2. Other names for long COVID include:
- Post-COVID Conditions (PCC)
- Long-haul COVID
- Post-acute COVID-19
- Post-acute sequelae of SARS CoV-2 infection (PASC)
- Long-term effects of COVID
- Chronic COVID
What are the types of long COVID?
The American Medical Association published an article with information that doctors wish patients knew about post-COVID conditions. According to the article, there are three categories of long COVID3:
- People who have lingering symptoms because of the direct damage to cells caused by the COVID-19 virus.
- People who have symptoms related to chronic hospitalization with ICU stay or being bed-bound for weeks. These symptoms include muscle weakness, cognitive brain dysfunction, and psychosocial stress from being in the ICU long-term, which can be called post-ICU care syndrome.
- People who don’t have any symptoms until after recovery. There are some people who had COVID-19 but didn’t even know it because they were asymptomatic. There is still research being done on this subject but essentially there is a connection between the immune system of a person and inflammatory markers.
What are the symptoms of long COVID?
People with post-COVID conditions report symptoms lasting four weeks or longer after infection. The symptoms may come and go, and similar to COVID-19 symptoms, people with post-COVID conditions don’t always experience the same symptoms. However, the most commonly reported include2:
- General symptoms
- Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort (also known as “post-exertional malaise”)
- Respiratory and heart symptoms
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
- Neurological symptoms
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
- Sleep problems
- Dizziness when you stand up (lightheadedness)
- Pins-and-needles feelings
- Change in smell or taste
- Depression or anxiety
- Digestive symptoms
- Stomach pain
Do you think you have long-COVID?
There is still a lot of research happening on long-COVID. Researchers are trying to understand who it affects, why the symptoms can vary, and more. Because of this continuous research, it may take some time to get an official diagnosis. Scheduling an appointment with your healthcare provider is a great place to start. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has some helpful tips that can help you or someone you know with post-COVID conditions.
If you think you have long-COVID and your healthcare provider has recommended bloodwork, Scarlet® can meet you at home or work to collect a blood sample. Additionally, if you think you might have COVID-19, you can request an appointment for a COVID-19 swab. Similar to the blood draw process, a Scarlet Health Professional visits you at home or work, completes a nasal swab for an RT-PCR COVID-19 test, and then delivers the sample to a BioReference laboratory for testing.