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Sure Signs You Have "Frightening" Long Covid, Says New Study

Over a third of COVID-19 patients had at least one long-COVID symptom.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

As experts have been saying for months, there's nothing simple about COVID-19. That especially applies to the phenomenon known as "long COVID," a condition some people develop after the coronavirus should have cleared the body. Researchers don't know what causes it or how to effectively treat it, but some people can be debilitated by the symptoms. But a new study has uncovered how many people get long COVID, and what its most common signs are. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.

1

What the Study Found

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British researchers looked at the health records of more than 270,000 people recovering from COVID-19 and found that 37% had at least one long COVID symptom diagnosed in the three to six months after their COVID infection.

Earlier estimates were that 1 in 3 people experience long COVID, so the new findings actually exceed that.

"I think one of the characteristics of this virus is particularly awful is that It actually causes you to make an immune response to the lining of your own blood vessels, causing inflammation of blood vessels, otherwise known as vasculitis," said Dr. Paul Offit, a professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, on CNN Wednesday. "So really every organ can be affected."

Read on for the most common long COVID symptoms.

2

The Most Common Long COVID Symptoms

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The researchers found the most common long COVID symptoms included:

  • Abnormal breathing – reported by 8% of people in the study
  • Abdominal symptoms – 8%
  • Anxiety/depression – 15%
  • Chest/throat pain – 6%
  • Cognitive problems ('brain fog') – 4%
  • Fatigue – 6%
  • Headache – 5%
  • Myalgia (muscle pain) – 1.5%
  • Other pain – 7%
  • Any of the above symptoms – 37%

"Long-COVID symptoms were more frequent in those who had been hospitalized, and they were slightly more common in women," the researchers wrote. "Older people and men had more breathing difficulties and cognitive problems, whereas young people and women had more headaches, abdominal symptoms and anxiety/depression. Many patients had more than one long-COVID symptom, and symptoms tended to co-occur more as time progressed."

3

No Cure At Present

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Researchers aren't sure what causes long COVID, and at this time it has no cure. They speculate that these symptoms may be caused by inflammation provoked by the virus in parts of the body, the virus setting off an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks itself, or the virus still actually being present in the body.

Or some combination of all those. "Most likely it's more than just one condition," said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, this month. "The really troubling aspects of this terrible pandemic might be the lingering of this long-tail effect on people."

4

Why You Should Get Vaccinated

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"If you asked me at the beginning of this pandemic, what scared me the most about getting COVID before there was a vaccine, it was that it was the capacity of this virus to induce your own immune system, to essentially react against your own lining of your blood vessels, which causes vascular damage," said Offit. "It's frightening. I know of no other respiratory virus that does this, and is probably the most compelling reason to get a vaccine." 

5

How to Stay Safe Out There

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Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.