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The pandemic has shocked and surprised health experts, governments and the general public alike. The new variant currently sweeping across the UK shows that COVID-19 – the disease caused by the latest coronavirus – has more surprises up its sleeve. Another surprising development throughout the pandemic has been the endurance of symptoms, which has been described as “long COVID”.
A new study provides the most definitive look at long COVID symptoms yet.
In the largest and longest follow-up study conducted to date investigating the lingering effects of COVID-19, researchers have found more than two-thirds of hospitalised patients report at least one ongoing symptom six months after contracting the disease.
The study, published in the Lancet, investigated the lingering effects of COVID-19 on 1,733 hospitalised patients from Wuhan, China.
Each patient was followed for at least six months.
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The researchers found that 76 percent of all patients reported at least one continuing symptom six months later.
The most persistent symptom was fatigue or muscle weakness, reported by 63 percent of all patients.
Around a quarter of the cohort also reported sleep difficulties and anxiety or depression.
A smaller subset of the cohort completed comprehensive pulmonary testing and more than half displayed persistent chest imaging abnormalities.
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Another key finding was that the degree of ongoing lung damage six months later correlated with the severity of the disease during the patients’ acute phase of hospitalisation.
“Because COVID-19 is such a new disease, we are only beginning to understand some of its long-term effects on patients’ health,” said Bin Cao, corresponding author on the new study.
“Our analysis indicates that most patients continue to live with at least some of the effects of the virus after leaving hospital, and highlights a need for post-discharge care, particularly for those who experience severe infections.”
Cao added: “Our work also underscores the importance of conducting longer follow-up studies in larger populations in order to understand the full spectrum of effects that COVID-19 can have on people.”
What are the main symptoms of coronavirus?
According to the NHS, the main symptoms of coronavirus are:
- A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.
“Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms,” explains the health body.
How to respond
If you have any of the main symptoms of coronavirus, get a test to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.
You and anyone you live with should stay at home and not have visitors until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.
Anyone in your support bubble should also stay at home if you have been in close contact with them since your symptoms started or during the 48 hours before they started.
A support bubble is where someone who lives alone (or just with their children) can meet people from one other household.
Can I treat my symptoms at home?
There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19), but you can often ease the symptoms at home until you recover.
However, as the NHS explains, if you have a high temperature, it can help to get lots of rest.
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