Long Covid Q & A:
First off, a disclaimer; anyone reading this will surely know that our understanding of long COVID is in its nascency. Many of these answers are a ‘best guess’ based on today’s data and will doubtless change over time as more information becomes available.
What is long covid and how is it diagnosed?:
While there is widespread agreement that Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), or ‘long covid’, consists of ongoing symptoms beyond what would typically be expected after recovering from Covid, experts vary in the duration that qualifies as long covid, with a range between ~2-3 months of from the onset of COVID-19. There are no specific tests to determine whether a person has long covid, thus the diagnosis is clinical.
What are the three most common symptoms of long covid?
Chest pain, anxiety, depression, difficulty speaking, muscle aches, loss of smell and/or taste
Variable, typically ~ several weeks - 6 months (up to 9 months and longer reported)
How likely is it that a person will develop long covid after an initial infection?
Debatable; percentages vary from single digits up to ~ 50%.
Does anything increase the risk of long covid?
Studies suggest that older people, those with a more serious initial Covid-19 infection and/or those with certain underlying comorbid conditions may be at greater risk of developing long covid. There is also some evidence that women may be more prone to long covid, and that vaccination may confer a degree of protection against long covid, but this data is still emerging.
How is long covid treated?
Because long covid can involve many different body systems, a multidisciplinary approach and a range of treatments directed toward the specific body systems affected are key. Although it can be tempting to rush back to normal activities, post-exertional malaise–meaning profound fatigue with overexertion–is common. Rehabilitation can help direct a gradual return to activity and promote recovery.