Long-Term Effects of COVID-19

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There are many things that we know about COVID-19. For example, how it can be spread from person to person and just how easy that transmission can be. We also know what some of the most common symptoms associated with the virus are – for example, it often mimics mild cold or flu-like symptoms (such as runny nose, fever and cough) while one can also experience much more severe symptoms. We also know that the best way to prevent ourselves from getting the virus is to practice the following measures: Social distancing, wearing a mask when that distance cannot be kept, and regular/frequent hygiene (i.e. washing our hands.)

How COVID-19 affects every individual is different – meaning the symptoms that one person may experience could significantly differ from the symptoms that you, yourself might experience. It’s also possible to be infected with COVID-19 and not even know it. When this is the case, this is known as being asymptomatic. That being said, even if you are asymptomatic you can still transfer the virus to others, which is why it’s important that we all take the precautionary measures as mentioned previously. Your age in addition to having any underlying medical conditions can also play a role into how severely the virus impacts you. In many cases, COVID-19’s infection rate has been highest in the elderly – while many of the reported deaths here in British Columbia have been linked to outbreaks at long-term care facilities. However, young people are not immune to COVID-19 either, and we’re now seeing an increase of individuals in their 20s and 30s being diagnosed with this virus.

Per Dr. Bonnie Henry, the way the virus impacts someone could also be dependent on their own immune system and genetic makeup. In some individuals, the illness will be severe (with some even requiring hospitalization) while others may experience a milder form of illness.

Even if the virus has cleared from your system, some individuals have reported lingering, long-term effects. For example, some people have reported that they’ve been unable to regain their strength back to what it was before contracting the virus and have even reported that they’ve had difficulty sitting up or moving around for extended periods of time, that they experience headaches, and even hair loss. In individuals with COVID-19 who’ve developed pneumonia, some have said that they continue to have shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. While some younger children and teenagers with the virus have contracted a post-viral syndrome similar to Kawasaki disease, causing inflammation of the blood vessels, in addition to other symptoms such as lethargy, pink eye, rash, swollen hands and/or feet, lips that appear red, swollen or cracked, as well as abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Some individuals have also reported experiencing neurological impacts as a result of the virus, such as decreased cognition, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, delirium, and brain fog – all of which point to potential encephalopathy – the term used to describe damage to the brain, which occurs when it has been affected by an infection or toxins in the blood.

If you have, or think you have COVID-19, it’s important to stay home when you’re sick. It’s also important that you closely monitor your symptoms. If you start to develop any emergency signs, such as trouble breathing, you should seek medical care right away by calling 911. If your symptoms are mild, you should take care of yourself by getting as much rest as possible and keep yourself hydrated by drinking water, and take over-the-counter medication, such as acetaminophen, to help reduce some of the symptoms you might be experiencing, such as low-grade fever or body aches and pains.