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Long Covid

What is long covid? 

Long Covid, Covid Long Haul or PASC (Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-Cov-2 Infection) is a syndrome observed in people who have previously tested positive for the Covid-19 infection and who, after more than 28 days, continue to experience symptoms of the disease. It is estimated that Long Covid affects 10 per cent of people who contract Covid-19. In the UK alone it was estimated that, as of April 2021, more than 1.1 million people were suffering varying degrees of Long Covid. The UK’s NICE guideline provides two definitions for Long Covid:

  • ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 for people who still have symptoms between 4 and 12 weeks after the start of acute symptoms
  • post-COVID-19 syndrome for people who still have symptoms for more than 12 weeks after the start of acute symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of Long Covid are numerous and affect multiple systems in the body (ie respiratory, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and nervous system) with the most commonly reported symptoms including:

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • muscle pains
  • chest pain
  • cognitive impairment (brain fog)
  • headache
  • psychological disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

It is difficult to predict who will develop Long Covid. It has not only been people who were hospitalised with severe and life-threatening Covid-19 who have gone on to develop Long Covid. Individuals with reportedly mild cases of infection, who were treated at home, have also reported symptoms weeks and months later. However, what has become clear is that Long Covid has been more common in the following groups:

  • Those with pre-existing health conditions (ie diabetes, asthma, hypertension)
  • People over the age of 50 years
  • People with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Women
  • Covid-19 patients who experienced five or more symptoms in the first week of their infection.

Resources

NHS: Long-term effects of coronavirus (long COVID)

Nice Guidance (NG 188) COVID-19 rapid guideline: managing the long-term effects of COVID-19 

ONS, 2021. Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the UK

SOM: COVID-19 return to work guide for managers