There is a phenomenon, long-hauler syndrome, in which some people who have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus continue to experience symptoms long after they recover from the virus. Some experience lingering symptoms weeks, even months after. In this article we will discuss this long-hauler syndrome and offer suggestions for those who continue to experience symptoms.
The COVID-19 virus is still so new that, unfortunately, it is too early to tell what triggers the lingering symptoms for long-haulers. Patients experience brain fog and report being unusually forgetful and confused or unable to concentrate even while watching TV. Some symptoms mimic those of the COVID-19 virus itself, such as shortness of breath, dry cough, and fatigue. Other symptoms include joint pain, chest pain, difficulty sleeping, and irregular heartbeat. Some patients even report feeling anxious and depressed. While there isn’t a “one size fits all” list of symptoms, fatigue seems to be the most common.
Dennis McGorry MD, a senior regional medical director at St. Luke’s University Health Network, suggests that at least 30% of patients will experience lingering symptoms after recovering from COVID-19. Even if you had a mild COVID-19 infection, you may still experience these. It is hard to predict how long these symptoms will last for long haulers and where the healthcare world will go from here. There are some suggestions that these symptoms are the long-lasting effects the COVID-19 virus had on multiple organs systems in the body such as: the heart, lungs, kidneys, skin, and even the brain. Other findings suggest it might be “post ICU syndrome,” resulting from long-term hospitalization due to the virus.
Respiratory Issues Post COVID-19
Some patients who have been seriously ill with the COVID-19 virus develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which can permanently scar their lungs. However, it is unclear if there is any scarring for long-haulers who have respiratory issues but not at the severe level of ARDS. Some people have mild infections and therefore might not have any real effects on the lungs.
Per the Mayo Clinic, since it is still too soon and difficult to predict long-term outcomes from the COVID-19 virus, scientists are looking at the long-term effects seen in related viruses, such as the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). For example, patients who have recovered from SARS developed chronic fatigue syndrome, a disorder causing extreme fatigue that worsens with physical or mental activity and does not seem to improve with rest. The same may be true for people recovered from the COVID-19 virus.
If you or a loved one is experiencing the long-hauler syndrome it is important to educate yourself on the virus and its lingering effects. Monitor your symptoms and speak to your healthcare provider about what you are experiencing. They may recommend a COVID-19 recovery clinic near you. Another possible solution is the COVID-19 vaccine which seems to have helped minimize long-hauler syndrome symptoms.