What is long covid and what makes it different from Post-Covid?
After an apparently survived corona infection, some sick people are not quite behind them. Long Covid is the nightmare that many dread. The German Society for Pneumology and Respiratory Medicine (DGP) has therefore taken the lead in developing patient guidelines that are intended to provide those affected with information and guidance.
It lists the prevalence, symptoms, rehab options and recommended action.
What is Long Covid and what long-term effects are reported?
Long Covid is a collective term for long-term health consequences that can occur after an acute illness of COVID-19 . The term “Long Covid” includes symptoms that persist or recur more than 4 weeks after the onset of the disease from COVID-19 and cannot be explained by a PCR-confirmed persistent infection or other diseases. People suffering from Long Covid are no longer contagious.
A distinction can be made between three phases of a disease from COVID-19, the last two phases being assigned to Long Covid:
- acute COVID-19 disease phase: up to 4 weeks after the onset of symptoms,
- subacute COVID-19 disease phase: existing COVID-19 symptoms 4 to 12 weeks after the first symptoms appear,
- Post-COVID syndrome: Symptoms that have occurred in connection with COVID-19 or after, are still present more than 12 weeks after the illness and cannot be otherwise explained.
Both the subacute phase of the disease and the post-COVID syndrome are known as Long COVID.
Who is affected by Long Covid and who is particularly at risk?
It is not yet clear what the proportion of those who experience long-term health consequences due to COVID-19 is.
People who have become seriously ill with COVID-19 are probably more likely to have longer-term symptoms than people who initially had a mild course. However, even people who were only slightly ill with COVID-19 can certainly develop long-term consequences.
Certain risk factors could favor Long Covid. These include old age, very overweight (obesity) and previous diseases of the lungs and heart. However, long-term consequences can also occur in children , young people and without a previous illness. Women – regardless of age – are more severely affected by fatigue, a syndrome of exhaustion.
Long-Covid and Post-Covid – what are the symptoms?
Long-Covid describes symptoms that can still be felt weeks after the illness. Around ten percent of the sick are affected. If the complaints last more than twelve weeks, they are referred to as post-Covid.
About two to five percent of all infected people are affected by post-Covid. Most of them are women between the ages of 30 and 50. Asthmatics, people with high blood pressure, diabetics and overweight people also seem to suffer from it somewhat more often than others.
It is not clear why certain people have to struggle with the consequences for so long and others do not.
Long and Post Covid Symptoms:
Very common: Fatigue (tiredness, rapid exhaustion), shortness of breath during exertion, headache, muscle pain, body aches, smell and taste disorders
Often: cough, insomnia, depressive mood, anxiety, thought disorder, hair loss, stress
Rare: paralysis, tingling, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, tinnitus, racing heart, palpitations
Corona is considered a multiple organ disease. This means that the virus not only attacks the respiratory tract, but also other organs. This also applies to long and post covid. There are a variety of symptoms that affect various organs.
What you know: Long or post Covid occur regardless of the severity of the disease. Even those who had hardly any symptoms can suffer from them. And: the symptoms can only appear weeks after an infection has been overcome.
The most common symptoms of Long Covid
The most commonly reported symptoms of Long Covid Syndrome include (but are not limited to) the following:
1. Symptoms related to breathing
- shortness of breath
- Easy breathing
- Cough / throat irritation
2. Symptoms related to the heart and the vasculature
- Chest tightness
- Chest pain
3. Neurological symptoms
- Loss of concentration
- Memory problems
- Word finding disorders
- Sleep disorder
- Confusion (in older populations)
4. General symptoms
5. Gastrointestinal tract symptoms
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite and decreased appetite (in the elderly)
6. Musculature and the skeleton relating to symptoms
- Joint pain
- muscle pain
7. Psychological / psychiatric symptoms
- Symptoms of depression
- Symptoms of anxiety
8. Symptoms affecting the skin
9. Ear, nose and throat symptoms
- Sore throat
- Loss / change in taste and / or smell
Patient guidelines – when to see a doctor and to which one?
The guidelines are intended to enable patients to classify their complaints before they visit a doctor and to relieve them of some of their fears. If the symptoms persist, it is recommended to visit your family doctor, who may carry out further treatment steps or refer you to a specialist.
In some cases, for example with breathing difficulties, a referral to a pulmonologist may be useful, they say. The ENT doctor can stimulate the regaining of the sense of smell through a special “smell training”.
However, it is emphasized that most symptoms will go away within weeks or months and that the body can regenerate itself very well.
In addition: Persistent symptoms, such as fatigue, are not uncommon for virus infections. Symptoms can persist for a long time even after an infection with the flu virus or an infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (Pfeiffer’s glandular fever).
It is important to give yourself time, to allow yourself some rest and to contact your family doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
How can long-term consequences of COVID-19 be avoided?
So far, little is known about the prevention of Long Covid. According to the current state of knowledge, the best way to protect yourself against Long Covid is to avoid infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus by taking the recommended infection protection measures and to get a full vaccination.
A complete corona vaccination is the most effective measure against a disease of COVID-19, especially a severe course, and thus also against long COVID. In addition, the AHA + L + A formula should be adhered to as best as possible by everyone – including those who have been vaccinated and recovered, children and adolescents.
Can children also be affected by long-term health effects or Long Covid?
Children can also be affected by long-term health effects after contracting COVID-19. As in adults, the most common symptoms may be fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headache, insomnia and difficulty breathing. The possible long-term effects on children are being intensively investigated around the world. In Germany, among others, the German Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases is researching the long-term health effects of COVID-19 in children and adolescents.