What is long Covid and what are the symptoms?

HUNDREDS of thousands of people recovering from the coronavirus have been struck down with debilitating symptoms.

Those suffering have dubbed the condition "long-Covid", with many reporting symptoms of chronic fatigue and cognitive problems.

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The global death toll of the virus is still climbing and experts are scrambling to understand the side effects of the virus.

A study recently revealed that 75 per cent of patients admitted to hospital with the virus continued to suffer with ongoing issues.

Last month MPs were also warned that up to 500,000 Brits were suffering from the condition.

Experts at King's College London claimed that up to 60,000 patients were still experiencing symptoms three months on.

The all-party parliamentary group (APPG) of MPs on the coronavirus previously claimed there were 16 symptoms that people with long-Covid suffer with.

What is long-Covid?

At the start of 2020 Covid-19 was new and unknown to most of the world and experts say there is still much that needs to be understood about the virus, including its side effects.

Speaking to The Sun, Dr Ben Littlewood-Hillsdon, chief medical officer of symptom assessment tool Doctorlink said one aspect of Covid-19 which is yet to be fully understood is its longevity.

"Firstly, it’s important to know that ‘long-Covid’ is not an official medical term, but a colloquial term being used to describe people whose symptoms go on for longer than the two-week symptom period officially recognised by WHO.

"As with the acute stage of the disease, the long-term symptoms are still far from being fully understood."

He added that it's important to understand that "long-Covid is yet to be officially recognised medically".

What are the symptoms?

The APPG lists 16 symptoms of the virus.

The group has demanded that the UK government steps ups and helps people suffering from the condition.

But what are the sixteen symptoms of long Covid and what do you need to watch out for?

1. Hair loss

A survey recently revealed that one in four people who have overcome the virus have since experienced hair loss.

An online survey was conducted of 1,500 people who have survived Covid.

The results from the Survivor Corp Facebook group found that 27 per cent of people had experienced some form of hair loss.

This could be hair loss of the scalp, or on other parts of the body such as the eyebrows.

The condition know as telogen effluvium (TE), is when a person temporarily experiences hair loss.

Doctors have said that this usually occurs if a patient has recently experienced a stressful situation.

TE occurs when the number of the follices in the scalp changes.

It usually affects the top of the scalp and in most cases the hair line will not recede if someone experiences TE.

Severe cases of TE will spread to the eyebrows and other parts of the body.

2. High temperature

A high temperature is a key symptom of the coronavirus – anything over 38C is considered to be a high temperature.

The NHS states that if your temperature is that high then you won't need to take it and you will feel hot to touch on your chest or on your back.

Your normal body temperature is approximately 37C.

A fever is usually when your body temperature is 37.8C or higher. You may feel warm, cold or shivery.

In babies and children a normal temp is about 36.4C, but this can vary slightly from child to child.

3. Diarrhoea

Back in June the US added diarrhoea to its official list of symptoms.

This means you are experiencing uncontrollable bowel movements.

Experts at King's College London had previously identified this as a symptom.

They placed patients into six categories of severity and people in categories three and six were found to have experienced diarrhoea.

This symptom can be debilitating for many and is likely to stop people returning to work.

4. Exhausation

In June it was reported that many Brits were suffering with post-virus fatigue.

Dr Ben said: "People suspected of suffering with long-Covid are reporting ongoing fatigue and extreme tiredness.

"Some have reported struggling to carry out even basic activities such as walking up the stairs."

If you are suffering from exhaustion then you will have little or no energy – leaving you unable to do every day tasks.

It's also likely that you will suffer from mental and physical exhaustion as a result and many patients who have overcome the coronavirus have battled this.

King's College London also listed exhaustion in three of its symptom clusters.

5. Chest pain

Coronavirus is an infection that attacks the lungs so it's no surprise that people who contract the virus are likely to suffer from chest pains.

Some may have also been put on a ventilator which may cause pain later on.

Even though this is not an official symptom – the World Health Organisation previously warned that if you had the virus then your chest might be tight.

Many people with long Covid had reported experiencing chest pains when climbing the stairs or walking.

6. Insomnia

Insomnia is a condition which means you are unable to sleep for prolonged periods of time.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) previously heard that people with long Covid feel pressure to return to work.

Insomnia can leave you with exhaustion and many would struggle to work in these conditions.

During March many people also reported that they were experiencing insomnia due to the stress caused by the pandemic.

7. Hallucinations

Patients who have overcome the virus have said they have experienced a hallucination.

A hallucination is when someone sees, hears, smells, tastes or feels things that don't exist outside their mind.

They can be frightening and are often caused by medications.

A study previously found that there had been a rise in patients suffering from neurological conditions – with 36 per cent of patients having reported neurological issues.

8. Covid toes

"Covid toes" is mainly seen in kids, doctors say.

Medics treating Covid-19 patients have continuously reported seeing unusual cases where people have developed blisters and purple lesions on their feet.

Doctors believe that the condition is inflammatory.

The condition appears on the feet of patients, even when no other symptoms are apparent.

Dr Ignacio Garcia-Doval explained that the most common type of rash in the study was maculopapules – small, flat and raised red bumps.

However, experts were reluctant to say that the rashes are definitely linked to Covid-19 as they are a common symptom of many viral infections.

The European Journal of Pediatric Dermatology said there had been a "epidemic" of cases in Italy involving children and young adults.

It is a condition that had not previously been linked to the virus – but the APPG's have now added it to the list of symptoms that people with long Covid are suffering.

9. Chills

Experiencing chills is another symptom that people with long Covid have experienced.

Chills are the feeling you get when you start to feel cold despite there being no reason for this.

Chills can occur with a fever and can make you shiver and shake.

It can also feel like it's impossible for you to get warm.

10. Disorientation

Patients who are suffering with long Covid have reported feeling disorientated with their surroundings.

Many patients have reported feeling delirium, confusion and anxiety.

In particular, doctors say those with severe coronavirus who are admitted to hospital often develop an acute brain condition called “ICU delirium."

Now many patients with long Covid have continued to suffer from these issues.

11. Cognitive problems

Cognitive issues include suffering from memory loss, struggling to pay attention and finding it hard to understand others.

This can be debilitating for sufferers and many with the symptom have been unable to return to work.

Experts said that this may be caused by direct viral infection of the brain tissue.

Dr Ben said: "Whilst cognitive problems is not a recognised symptom of the virus, there is increasing evidence that brain fog, concentration difficulties and memory loss may be long-term effects of Covid-19.

"These have been reported in patients both young and old."



12. Breathing issues

Dr Ben said research teams are seeing a good proportion of people reporting ongoing respiratory problems such as breathlessness in the weeks and months after first experiencing symptoms.

Most people who have the coronavirus are likely to experience breathing issues as it is a condition that attacks the lungs.

But once patients have recovered many are still reporting this issue.

Shortness of breath feels as though you are not getting the right amount of oxygen you need.

It can feel like you are struggling to catch your breath.

13. Muscle or body aches

Most people will be used to experiencing muscle or body aches if they have had a long session at the gym.

But people suffering from long Covid are often experiencing these issues and are unable to do simple things like get up out of a chair without struggling.

Discomfort is a symptom of most viral infections as a foreign body has entered your system and your body responds to it accordingly.

Inflammation caused by Covid can aggravate the muscles.

Dr Ben added: "Muscle aches and pains are a commonly experienced symptom of Covid-19 – if your limbs are still feeling achy and heavy weeks or months after your diagnoses, you may be experiencing long-Covid".

14. A heart rate of more than 100 beats a minute (Tachycardia)

Most people will usually experience a heart rate of over 100 beats a minutes if they have just exericised.

A normal resting heart rate for adults can be anywhere between 60 and 100 and factors like weight can also contribute to this and typically people who weigh more have higher resting heart rates.

Experts have previously said that athletes who recover from the virus may face dire or lasting heart complications.

Having a high heart rate can make you feel as though you are out of breath.

15. Vomiting

People who have recovered from the virus and are suffering from long Covid claim that they have experienced vomiting.

In China, around only 5 per cent of coronavirus sufferers were being sick or had nausea – compared to more common symptoms like fever (87.9%) or dry cough (67.7 per cent).

Yet, you can not rule out vomiting as a symptom, with former Page 3 model and actress Linda Lusardi claiming the virus made her sick, but in a different colour.

Now people with long Covid have warned that this is an ongoing symptom.

16. Issues with your heart rate or its rhythm (Arrhythmia)

Having issues with your heart rate has also been reported by people with long-Covid.

This means that it might feel as though your heart has skipped a beat as it is not in sync with it's natural rhythm.

The heart can beat too fast or too slow.

It is usually the result of a weak or damaged heart.

Why aren't all patients experiencing these symptoms?

Dr Ben said that it's not yet clear why some coronavirus survivors are suffering these symptoms while others make full recoveries.

"Reports suggest that there is not a direct correlation between the severity of the initial illness to who is then developing long-term symptoms.

"There have been people who have been in intensive care with Covid-19, but who have made a full recovery, whilst on the other end of the scale, there are people who had a relatively minor infection, but have then gone on to experience symptoms that don’t go away for months."

Summarising, he said this is still unknown, but there is a huge amount of funding going into large-scale research projects, so medical professionals can better understand the ways in which the virus manifests itself.

When should I seek help?

If you are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus such as a new persistent cough, a high temperature or a loss of taste or smell then you need to get tested.

Dr Ben said if you test positive then NHS Track and Trace will be in touch with details on how long you need to isolate for as well as who you have been in contact with.

He added: "This is imperative to help control the spread of the virus. Keep a close eye on your symptoms and keep note of when they started and how long they are going on for.

"WHO has stated that symptoms of Covid-19 should generally clear up within 14 days, so if any of your symptoms persist for longer than this, it’s possible you are experiencing ‘long- Covid.’"

He said while there is no treatment currently prescribed, patients should try and support their immune systems through healthy, balanced eating, drinking enough fluids and general exercise.

"You can check your symptoms 24/7 with a digital triage tool such as Doctorlink, which will point you in the direction of the appropriate form of care.

"Alternatively, dial 111 or speak to your GP.

"Depending on the combination of symptoms you are experiencing and their severity, you may be advised to seek further medical attention", he added.

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