A staggering number of two million people in the UK are estimated to be suffering from long COVID as reported by the Office for National Statistics. The condition is continuously affecting the daily activities of the 1.4 million people and a total of 398,000 or one in five, said that their ability to perform day-to-day activities has been limited a lot.
The data gathered by ONS are based on self-reported COVID from a representative sample of people in private households.
What is long COVID?
It is a term used to describe the effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that can last for weeks or months after the initial illness. Mild or moderate COVID-19 cases usually last about two weeks for most people. However, others experience lingering health problems with COVID symptoms even if they no longer test positive on a Covid-19 test.
How long it can last?
The ONS estimated that between 3 and 12 percent of people who acquired COVID can continue to suffer from symptoms 12 weeks after the initial infection. This data is based on 20,000 respondents in the Coronavirus Infection Survey (CIS) conducted between April 26 to August 1, 2021. It is worth noting that these estimates were made before Omicron has become the dominant variant in the UK.
What are the symptoms?
Research published by Imperial College London in June 2021, based on half a million people in England, revealed that there are two main categories of ongoing symptoms:
- A smaller group of people with respiratory symptoms like cough or breathlessness is likely to develop severe COVID-19 illness initially.
- A larger group with a combination of general COVID symptoms, specifically tiredness and fatigue.
The research is based on people who self-reported their symptoms of long COVID on the Zoe COVID Symptom Study app. In the study of 4,182 individuals, it found that heart symptoms are commonly reported such as increased heartbeat or palpitations.
Moreover, according to ONS, the rates of long COVID were highest among women aged 35 to 69. This includes those living in deprived areas, working in social care, teaching, or healthcare, and people with health conditions and disabilities.
What causes post-COVID syndrome?
Certain risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, obesity, and other conditions can cause a severe COVID-19. However, there is no clear link between such risk factors and long-term problems. In truth, long COVID can happen to people with mild symptoms, and patients with severe initial illness are likely to have long-term impairments. Much research is underway to shed light on these persistent health problems.
Can COVID vaccines prevent?
Getting vaccinated against the coronavirus can significantly lower the risk of infection. In some cases, breakthrough infections might happen but getting fully jabbed, including a booster shot is effective in reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19.
Is there a test?
There is no coronavirus test to diagnose long COVID. It is best to speak to a doctor if they can refer tests to help understand how long coronavirus is affecting an individual and how it can be treated. Tests could include blood tests, heart rate, and blood pressure checks, sit-to-stand tests, an ECG, and a chest X-ray.
Tips for Managing Long COVID Symptoms
Managing fatigue and breathlessness
- Avoid over-exerting yourself.
- If you find daily tasks difficult to undertake, it is ideal to alternate doing easy activities and harder ones.
- Do difficult tasks when your energy level is high. Do not do things that make you feel breathless.
- Try to gradually increase the amount of exercise you do daily.
Relieving Joint and Muscle Pain
- Do some flexibility and strength exercises. You can opt to check with doctors before starting an appropriate exercise regime.
What is the best treatment for long COVID?
Unfortunately, there is not one single treatment or medication for treating long COVID. What people can do instead is to talk with their GP about the symptoms they are experiencing. Should individuals feel long COVID significantly impacts their daily lives, they can prefer to see a specialist rehabilitation specialist to look after the symptoms.