As COVID-19 continues developing, we keep discovering more unpredictable outcomes that set it apart from any other virus. Long COVID symptoms (also known as Post-COVID-19 Condition) are among them. These are physical and psychological effects that some coronavirus sufferers experience for months or years after exposure to the virus.
When the virus first arrived, no one anticipated such long-term effects. Today, researchers work continuously to better understand how they work.
This article discusses everything we know thus far about prolonged COVID reactions, including the common symptoms, recovery times, vaccine requirements, and contagion times.
What is Long COVID or Post COVID?
Long COVID, also referred to as post-COVID or post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), is a term used to describe the persistent symptoms and health issues that individuals experience even after recovering from the initial phase of COVID-19. These post-COVID conditions can affect individuals who have had mild, moderate, or severe illness, and the symptoms can vary in intensity and duration.
Recognizing the significance of Long COVID, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been actively involved in studying and understanding this condition. Long COVID research aims to uncover the underlying causes, risk factors, and long-term implications associated with the ongoing symptoms and complications. The WHO provides guidance and support to healthcare professionals and researchers in diagnosing post-COVID conditions and managing the challenges they present.
Post-COVID conditions, also known as long-haul COVID, encompass a broad range of symptoms and health issues that individuals may experience even after the acute phase of the illness has passed. These can include persistent fatigue, respiratory problems, neurological symptoms, cardiovascular issues, mental health challenges, and more. It is important to note that the specific symptoms and their severity can vary from person to person.
Diagnosing post-COVID conditions requires a comprehensive evaluation by healthcare professionals, taking into account the individual’s medical history, symptoms, and any relevant test results. As the understanding of Long COVID evolves, healthcare providers are continually updating their knowledge and adapting their approaches to effectively diagnose and manage these conditions.
What Persistent COVID-19 Symptoms Are Most Common?
Most COVID-19 sufferers will be back to normal in just a couple of weeks; however, some will feel sick for much longer. The virus attacks many areas of the body and can create long-term complications that require extensive healing times.
The most commonly persistent COVID-19 symptoms include:
- Trouble breathing and shortness of breath
- Loss of hair
- Chest tightness and pain
- Sore and aching joints
- Trouble concentrating
- Confusion and memory loss
- Brain fog
- Rapid pulse
- Loss of taste or smell
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Extreme mood swings
What Are Some of the Long Haul COVID-19 Symptoms?
People with COVID-19 symptoms that last more than a few weeks become “long haulers.” Symptoms of long COVID typically include damage to muscles, organs, or the nervous system, resulting in serious long-term effects.
Long-haul COVID-19 complications include:
- Organ damage: Many people who suffer long-term COVID-19 symptoms experience damage to their lungs, liver, kidneys, brain, and other organs.
- Blood vessel issues: The virus can cause blood clots that lead to heart attacks, heart complications, strokes, and leaking blood vessels. These issues also inhibit many organs from functioning properly.
- Mental health problems: The mental anguish and physical suffering that long-haulers experience frequently leads to increased depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Patients who must stay in the intensive care unit during their illness are at a much higher risk for mental trauma.
- Lung and fatigue troubles: One of the main areas that the virus attacks is the lungs. Lung damage can create many complications, including difficulty breathing, especially when exercising.
Is SARS-CoV-2 RNA Found in Upper Respiratory Specimens From Recovered COVID-19 Patients?
If you recover from COVID-19, you may continue to have SARS-CoV-2 RNA (the virus) in your upper respiratory system for as long as three months after getting sick. This detection does not necessarily mean that you will experience any symptoms or remain contagious.
How Long Does It Take To Recover From COVID-19?
Returning to work and everyday life after being sick is essential but can be difficult. Some minor complications may resolve in weeks or months, though any extreme organ and nervous system damage can take years. Since the virus is still relatively new, the CDC does not know how long it will take to recover from long-term symptoms and injuries.
Full recovery is possible for most mild cases, though severe symptoms can result in permanent, irreversible damage. The spectrum of recovery times varies greatly depending on what you experience.
Is It Normal to Feel Sick for Weeks After Having COVID-19?
Studies that estimate the percentage of people who experience long-term symptoms vary greatly. Some researchers predict that more than half of COVID-19 patients will have lingering symptoms, while others say only 10% will. All we know is that many people continue to feel sick for a long time after contracting the virus, though the more severe cases are rare.
What Is the Average Recovery Time for COVID-19?
The average person takes about two weeks to fully recover from COVID-19, though long-haulers can expect more extensive healing time.
Can I Still Get Long-Term Side Effects After Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccine does not make you immune to the virus, though it can dampen its effects and reduce your risk of catching it. After getting vaccinated, your likelihood of suffering severe symptoms that can cause long-term damage reduces significantly, though it is still possible.
High-risk people with pre-existing conditions are more susceptible to experiencing severe COVID-19 effects, though it can happen to anyone.
Can You Experience Recurring COVID-19 Symptoms During the Recovery Process?
As you recover from COVID-19, you can expect that some of your symptoms may recur over weeks or months. The most common recurring symptoms during recovery include:
- Shortness of breath
- Phantom or lost senses
How Can I Manage Long COVID Symptoms?
Dealing with a long-term illness is challenging, especially when it’s one that scientists have not yet mastered. Managing your long-term symptoms can help you recover faster and ease your discomfort.
While treatments may vary, here are a few steps you can take to manage long COVID symptoms and kickstart your healing process:
- Go to your doctor: If your symptoms persist longer than two weeks, you should seek medical advice to understand any underlying problems that may worsen your condition. A doctor can prescribe different treatments like medications and physical therapy to help you feel better sooner.
- Get the vaccine: The COVID-19 vaccine will not resolve your symptoms, though it may help your immune system fight off any of the remaining pathogens in your body.
- Don’t get sick again: Practice caution when entering public areas, wear your mask, and sanitize as much as possible so that you don’t add any illnesses on top of your recovery.
- Eat well: When you eat nutritious, whole foods, you can help your body recover faster. Try to eat your recommended daily fruits, vegetables, and proteins and avoid junk food. If you feel nauseous, stick to bland meals.
- Stay hydrated: Drink a lot of water and limit how much caffeine and alcohol you drink, as those can dehydrate you. Energy crashes may also elevate your fatigue symptoms.
- Avoid smoking: Smoking damages your lungs, and doing so with already weakened lungs is a poor idea. Try to ditch any smoking habits so you can give your lungs a break.
- Exercise cautiously: While you do not need to lie in bed all day, you should pace yourself with any physical activity. Try to go on short, slow walks and stop as soon as you feel winded.
- Don’t overload your schedule: You may feel tempted to dive back into work and family life, even when you don’t feel better yet. You should ease yourself into activities slowly and space out your plans, leaving yourself time to rest.
- Limit unnecessary activities: To optimize your rest time, avoid non-essential activities that may tire you out. Shop online instead of in-store, skip your dinner date, and save manual labour like cleaning for later when you feel up to it.
- Start a bedtime routine: If you suffer insomnia, work to nail down a restful routine to help you sleep. Consider essential oils, calming music, sleep medications, and no-device time before bed.
- Seek support: If you notice severe mood changes or a decline in your mental health, you should seek professional support before your condition worsens.
Can You Still Get COVID-19 After Recovering From It?
Many assume that it will not happen again after they get sick one time, though this is unfortunately false. You can still contract the COVID-19 virus even after recovering from it. Your body should have a better immunity after building up the antigens, though that does not guarantee you won’t catch COVID again.
A few different COVID-19 strains continue popping up as the virus evolves to combat our vaccines and antigens. If you get sick with one type of COVID, you will not be immune to all others.
How Long Is Someone With COVID-19 Infectious?
Long-haulers usually do not stay infectious for the entirety of their symptoms. The typical COVID-19 patient will remain contagious for around 14 days after contracting the virus. Even if you feel sick for months, you likely will not spread the virus during that time. Be sure to get retested before you ease up on social distancing.
Usually, if you still have a fever, you’re still contagious. You will typically remain infectious until 72 hours pass after your last fever.
What tests and treatments are there for Long Covid?
When it comes to addressing the persistent symptoms and complications of Long COVID, finding appropriate tests and treatments is essential to support individuals in their recovery journey. Here are a couple of tests and treatments for long covid:
- Blood tests: These tests can assess various markers, such as inflammation levels, immune response, and organ function, to identify any underlying health conditions or abnormalities.
- Imaging scans: Techniques like chest X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to examine the lungs, heart, or other affected organs for any structural or functional abnormalities.
- Pulmonary function tests: These tests measure lung capacity, airflow, and gas exchange to evaluate respiratory function and identify any breathing or lung-related issues.
- Cardiac evaluations: Electrocardiograms (ECGs) and echocardiograms may be performed to assess heart function, detect any cardiac abnormalities, and evaluate the impact of Long COVID on the cardiovascular system.
- Neurological assessments: Various neurological tests, such as cognitive evaluations, nerve conduction studies, or brain imaging, may be conducted to assess any cognitive or neurological impairments associated with Long COVID.
Treatments for Long COVID may include:
- Physical therapy: Physical therapists can design personalized exercise programs to improve strength, flexibility, and overall physical function. These programs may focus on specific areas affected by Long COVID, such as respiratory function, muscle weakness, or joint mobility.
- Respiratory therapy: Breathing exercises and techniques taught by respiratory therapists can help improve lung capacity, alleviate breathing difficulties, and enhance overall respiratory health.
- Medications: Depending on the symptoms and underlying health conditions, healthcare providers may prescribe medications to manage specific aspects of Long COVID, such as pain, inflammation, sleep disturbances, or mood disorders.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT can help individuals manage mental health challenges associated with Long COVID. It involves identifying and modifying negative thought patterns, developing coping strategies, and promoting overall psychological well-being.
- Supportive care: Long COVID can have a significant impact on an individual’s daily life and emotional well-being. Supportive care may include counseling, support groups, and access to resources that can provide emotional support, education, and practical guidance.
It’s important to note that the specific tests and treatments for Long COVID may vary depending on individual circumstances and the guidance of healthcare professionals. The multidisciplinary approach aims to address the diverse range of symptoms and promote overall recovery and well-being.
Recovery Starts Today
Long COVID symptoms are unpredictable and can cause an extended period of suffering. While the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) does not yet know everything about the virus, you can keep yourself safe by practicing adequate care and rest after receiving a positive COVID-19 test result.
At Rapid Test & Trace Canada, we offer timely rapid COVID-19 online test orders to enable you to receive your kit without leaving home and spreading the illness.
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