Long-Hauler Syndrome Information
FLCCC Alliance Long-Haul Protocol
What are the long-term effects of coronavirus infection?
According to the CDC, the most common lasting symptoms are fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain and chest pain. Other issues include cognitive problems, difficulty concentrating, depression, muscle pain, headache, rapid heartbeat and intermittent fever.
- Breathing issues after COVID-19
A bad case of COVID-19 can produce scarring and other permanent problems in the lungs, but even mild infections can cause persistent shortness of breath — getting winded easily after even light exertion.
Lung recovery after COVID-19 is possible, but takes time. Experts say it can take months for a person’s lung function to return to pre-COVID-19 levels. Breathing exercises and respiratory therapy can help.
- Heart problems after COVID-19
SARS-CoV-2 infection can leave some people with heart problems, including inflammation of the heart muscle. In fact, one study showed that 60% of people who recovered from COVID-19 had signs of ongoing heart inflammation, which could lead to the common symptoms of shortness of breath, palpitations and rapid heartbeat. This inflammation appeared even in those who had had a mild case of COVID-19 and who had no medical issues before they got sick.
- Kidney damage from COVID-19
If the coronavirus infection caused kidney damage, this can raise the risk of long-term kidney disease and the need for dialysis.
- Lost or distorted senses of smell and taste after COVID-19
The senses of smell and taste are related, and because the coronavirus can affect cells in the nose, having COVID-19 can result in altered or lost senses of smell or taste. Before and after people become ill with COVID-19, they might lose their sense of smell or taste entirely, or find that familiar things smell or taste bad, strange or different.
For about a quarter of people with COVID-19 who have one or both of these symptoms, the problem resolves in a couple of weeks. But for most, these symptoms persist. Though not life-threatening, prolonged distortion of these senses can be devastating and can lead to lack of appetite, anxiety and depression. Some studies suggest that there’s a 60% to 80% chance that these people will see improvement in their sense of smell within a year.
- Neurologic Problems in Long COVID
Neurologist Arun Venkatesan, M.D., Ph.D., says, “Some individuals develop medium to long-term symptoms following COVID infection, including brain fog, fatigue, headaches and dizziness. The cause of these symptoms is unclear but is an active area of investigation.”
- Autonomic nervous system symptoms after COVID-19
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, is a condition that affects blood circulation, and people who have survived COVID-19 may be more vulnerable to it. Tae Chung, M.D., who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation, says “POTS can leave survivors with other neurologic symptoms, including continuing headache, fatigue, brain fog, difficulties in thinking or concentrating, and insomnia.
Even in patients without POTS, persistent post-COVID-19 insomnia, or “COVID-somnia” is an increasingly common complaint among COVID-19 survivors.
- Mental health issues after COVID-19
After surviving COVID-19, some people are left with lingering anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Physical changes such as pain and weakness can be complicated by long periods of isolation, stress from job loss and financial difficulties, and grief from the deaths of loved ones and the loss of good health.
Patients who were hospitalized have a particularly challenging recovery. Brigham says “Post-intensive care syndrome, or PICS, puts COVID-19 survivors and other people who have spent time in the ICU at a higher risk for problems with mental health, cognition and physical recovery.”
Megan Hosey, Ph.D., a rehabilitation psychologist, says that prolonged time in the ICU can cause delirium. The strange surroundings, multiple mind-altering medications, isolation and loss of control can leave patients with lasting and recurrent sensations of terror or dread, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Many patients have hallucinations where they believe that medical providers are trying to harm them,” Hosey says. “We’ve had patients tell us things like ‘I thought I was being buried alive’ when they were being put into an MRI.”
- Diabetes after COVID-19
The relationship between COVID-19 and diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, is complex. Type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for serious cases of COVID-19, and some survivors of the illness seem to be developing type 2 diabetes signs after they recover from COVID-19.
- Long-hauler coronavirus symptoms in children and teens
It’s not yet known whether children who have had COVID-19 are more or less likely than adults to experience continuing symptoms. But long-term COVID-19 in children is a possibility, showing up as fatigue, depression, shortness of breath and other long-hauler symptoms.
Amanda Morrow, M.D., a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, is part of the multidisciplinary team at Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Pediatric Post COVID-19 Rehabilitation Clinic, which addresses lingering coronavirus symptoms in children and teens. She says it isn’t clear why long COVID-19 symptoms affect some children and not others.
“We are seeing patients who are often very high-functioning, healthy children who did not have any previous illnesses or medical conditions,” she says, noting that many of the kids being treated at the clinic only had mild bouts of COVID-19.
Heart inflammation after COVID-19 is a concern, especially among young athletes returning to their sports after a mild or even asymptomatic case of the coronavirus. They should be screened for any signs of heart damage to ensure it is safe for them to resume activity.
Kids who have experienced the uncommon but serious complication of COVID-19 called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, can be left with serious heart damage, and should be followed by a pediatric cardiologist.*
*Source John Hopkins Medicine