Have you had COVID? Are you still experiencing symptoms for more than 60 days since your diagnosis of COVID? You may be experiencing Long COVID.
People who suffer from long-term changes in their health following an acute COVID-19 infection have “long COVID” or “long haul COVID-19” (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects.html). This long COVID condition may affect up to 30% (or more) of people who have recovered from the immediate infection. These changes can last for months and make it hard to function in everyday life.
COVID-19 can affect multiple systems of the body, including lungs, brain, heart, kidneys, gastrointestinal system, and blood clotting. Depending on the study, approximately 10% to 30% of people who have had acute COVID-19 with or without hospitalization continue to experience chronic and/or recurring symptoms (averaging 13.8 symptoms at 7 months)1 for many weeks and months after tests for the presence of the virus turn negative.
In long COVID-19, more women than men report persistent, recurrent symptoms, a striking demographic overlap with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, and multiple chemical sensitivities. Ages of the long haulers vary, but studies are finding middle-aged cohorts. Symptoms of long haul COVID-19 also vary from person to person and involve multiple systems of the body.
The most commonly-reported long COVID symptoms include disabling fatigue, breathing problems, and cognitive dysfunction, i.e., “brain fog.”2 Additional issues can include faintness or fainting, muscle and joint pain, fevers, insomnia, anxiety and depression, gastrointestinal disturbances, and more. One pre-publication online survey of over 3,700 affected individuals from 56 countries revealed that the most common pre-existing conditions included seasonal and other environmental allergies, migraines, and asthma.1
Symptoms may worsen after exercise or even prolonged mental effort.
At present there is no consensus on the features, mechanisms, or established treatments for long COVID-19. However, in 2020, Dr. Fauci at the National Institutes of Health observed that the long COVID symptom picture overlaps with that of chronic fatigue syndrome.3 They have designated this condition as “PASC” or “post-acute sequelae SARS-CoV-2 infection.”
Several investigators propose that many of the chronic symptoms reflect persistent changes in immune system and brain function.
Specifically, some researchers who had previously linked overly-reactive mast cells in the immune system (mast cell activation syndrome, MCAS) to both the organ-damaging inflammatory cytokine storms of acute COVID-19 and a long list of more familiar chronic conditions, e.g., chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, allergies and asthma,4 now propose that long COVID-19 may be the latest MCAS-spectrum syndrome.5
Nevertheless, research on the mechanisms of and treatments for long COVID is just beginning. There is a current research study project6 underway in the USA to determine the efficacy of homeopathic medicine in Long COVID.
1. Davis, H. E., et al., medRxiv (2020) Preprint, 2020.12.24.20248802
2. Moreno-Pérez, O., et al., The Journal of infection (2021), S0163
3. Rubin, R., JAMA (2020) 324 (14), 1381
4. Afrin, L. B., Never Bet Against Occam. Mast Cell Activation Disease and the Modern Epidemics of Chronic Illness and Medical Complexity. Sisters Media LLC: Bethesda, MD, 2016
5. Afrin, L. B., et al., Int J Infect Dis (2020) 100, 327