COVID-19 presents itself through about a dozen symptoms. Although many will not notice that they have a highly-contagious illness because they feel fine, most will have at least one of the symptoms.
These symptoms range from mild – dry cough, sore throat, aches and pains, headache, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, fever, loss of taste or smell, and general tiredness – to severe – difficulty breathing, chest pain, and loss of speech or movement. A small portion of those who get the illness will need to go to the emergency room and receive urgent care. Some of them will die from complications associated with the illness.
But, for the most part, people who had it will experience mild to moderate symptoms. They would not even have to go to the hospital for treatment. All they need is a Tylenol and several glasses of water to manage their symptoms and recover from the illness.
Those who have a mild form of the illness feel better after a few days. The fever, one of the most common symptoms, subsides within a week. The dry cough lingers for a while longer.
However, there is an increasing number of people who had COVID-19, recovered, but continue experiencing symptoms after weeks or even months. They are called long-haulers, and those who still feel unwell long after their initial encounter with the virus that started spreading globally a year ago.
Scientists are still unsure why it happens and who are most at risk, but it does not seem to correlate with the severity of initial symptoms. A patient who has had a mild form of the illness is not exempt from long-COVID. Being hospitalized from COVID does not guarantee a quick recovery, either.
Studies estimated that one in three people who had tested positive from COVID-19 will continue to have symptoms after two weeks of being sick. Most of them experience the same symptoms they had when they were first diagnosed with the illness. Some, however, develop new symptoms weeks after.
Researchers in Italy published a paper that revealed that, out of 147 hospitalized patients whose health outcomes they followed, 87% still had symptoms 60 days later. Another paper published by researchers from Wuhan, China found that 76% of those who were hospitalized from COVID-19 continued to have symptoms six months after they first got sick.
The Financial and Emotional Toll of a Long-Term Illness
People who have long-term, or chronic illness suffer immensely. It can completely make them bed-bound for most of the day and prevent them from enjoying their lives.
The same happens to people with long COVID. To some, the symptoms they continue to experience are so severe that they can no longer fulfill their professional obligations. Some patients are questioning whether they can get Social Security disability claims for long COVID. The illness, after all, has prevented them from keeping a job. Filing, however, will be an uphill battle. Claimants will need to prove that they are experiencing a disabling condition that prevents them from working. People who wish to try should first consult experts to prevent any missteps that will get their claims denied.
Experiencing symptoms for months impacts the mental health of patients, too. Long COVID can stop people from following their everyday routine, exercising, or engaging in their favorite activities. In addition, because of social distancing, patients do not get to spend time with their support system (family and friends).
After enduring isolation and treatment, they still cannot return to their normal lives. As a result, many of them develop mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic disorder.
The Symptoms of Long COVID
Long COVID comes with a long list of symptoms. Many are similar to signs of COVID-19 such as shortness of breath, chest pain, body pains, dry cough, loss of smell and taste, sore throat, and diarrhea. Others report experiencing dizziness, heart palpitations, earaches, tinnitus, pins and needles, difficulty sleeping, brain fog, and extreme tiredness.
There is no one treatment for long COVID. Although the condition is currently being evaluated and studied, people will have to wait longer to have their questions about the ailment answered. All patients can do right now is address each ailment. Those who continue to experience long symptoms should speak to their doctor, especially if it has persisted for four weeks or more.
There are also online support groups for patients who are still living with the remnants of COVID-19 on social media sites such as Facebook and Reddit. These platforms tell the story of people who have been living with their symptoms for months and share information about their recovery.