By Sally Moe, Times Total Media Correspondent
As viruses go, COVID-19 has behaved rather like a trickster. Depending on risk factors like age, weight, activity level and pre-existing conditions (i.e., obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure) — and sometimes with not even one of those risk factors present — it can land you in the hospital, on a ventilator or worse. Or it might slip by you, barely making a blip on your bodily radar. Some survivors report it was the sickest they’d ever been. And some still struggle with its effects, months, even years later, limiting their lives, forcing them to curtail or even quit work and activity.
According to the COVID support group SurvivorCorps.com, “studies suggest that conservatively, one in three individuals who contract COVID-19 are likely to experience lingering symptoms or to develop new symptoms 28 days or longer after the initial onset of disease. This lingering condition is often referred to as long COVID, PASC (post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2) or post COVID syndrome. Long COVID symptoms can vary in intensity, type and duration depending on the individual.”
While long COVID tends to be more common in adults than in children and teens, people of any age can experience long COVID symptoms. And long COVID can develop after severe, mild or even asymptomatic cases of COVID.
What does long COVID typically look like?
The most common sign of long COVID is debilitating fatigue. It’s been compared to the overwhelming tiredness that characterizes chronic fatigue syndrome. With that said, long COVID symptoms can vary significantly among sufferers. Some people have persistent headaches, chills, sleep disorders, brain fog, breathing difficulties, memory loss and/or a stubborn cough, while others develop cardiovascular complications, impotence or menstrual irregularities, or experience mental health impacts, such as depression or anxiety. Furthermore, the symptoms can wax and wane in such a way that patients can’t predict whether feeling good for a day or a week is a trend or a fluke — which makes it especially difficult to make plans or stick to a schedule. Explore the symptom checklist of potential symptoms of long COVID at tinyurl.com/yxrww2he. If you suspect you have long COVID and need medical support, this form can help you keep track of your symptoms and note patterns in occurrence and severity.
While infection rates and deaths from COVID are down since the peak of the pandemic, the virus is still out there and still mutating, people are still getting infected and cases of long COVID are still developing. The debilitating symptoms associated with the disorder are still frustrating experts and straining relationships.
All of this makes support groups — such as PandemicPatients.org, BodyPolitic.com, and survivorcorps.com — so important for sufferers and their caretakers. Because no one can give the kind of support and understanding like those who’ve been there (or are still there). In addition to valuable emotional and mental support, connecting with support groups also is a way of crowdsourcing coping techniques, medical studies and symptom relief strategies.
If you’ve steered clear of the virus so far by staying current on vaccinations and modifying your behaviors, be thankful and stay vigilant. Millions have died and millions more suffer debilitating long-term effects. The best defense is and always has been not getting COVID in the first place.
Information for this article was gathered from cdc.gov, webmd.com, mayoclinic.org, survivorcorps.com, pandemicpatients.org, nature.com and self.com.