Still Feeling Effects From Covid-19? You Might Be a Long-Hauler

Aug 9, 2022

It all came on very suddenly. You had a cough, felt tired and achy, and you couldn’t smell or taste your food. The “flu-like” symptoms that knocked you down for days turned out to not be the flu at all, but Covid-19. After fighting the nasty virus and coming out the other side, you expected to feel like your old self again, but some symptoms have now stayed with you for weeks or months.

Unfortunately, this scenario has played out for many people during the Covid-19 pandemic. And, while patients initially may have had a hard time convincing medical professionals that the lingering symptoms weren’t all in their heads, it’s becoming clear that some people experience long-term effects of Covid-19. In what has been termed “long-haul” or “long Covid,” some people continue to fight the effects of Covid-19 long after they were first diagnosed. Here’s what you should know about long Covid-19.

Long Covid-19 Symptoms

Just as Covid-19 can affect people differently, so do long Covid-19 symptoms. People have reported a variety of complaints, even after they have recovered. Some of the most common symptoms include continued fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, and joint pain. Others may experience mood changes, headaches, aching, and difficulty concentrating – also known as “brain fog.”

Who Is At Risk?

Health experts are still studying long Covid-19 symptoms and how they affect people, and there is still a lot to learn. One study found that about five percent of people diagnosed with Covid-19 still experience symptoms after eight weeks, and about two percent have symptoms after 12 weeks. In this study, older people and women were more likely to have symptoms for an extended period. People who had five or more symptoms while fighting Covid-19 were more likely to have long Covid-19, regardless of what those symptoms were.

Am I Still Contagious?

It is hard to say for sure how long people are contagious after having Covid-19, but it is unlikely that a person with long Covid-19 symptoms is contagious. Research has shown that people with mild or moderate cases of the illness were not contagious 10 days after their symptoms appeared. People with severe cases may be contagious longer, but most were not contagious after 20 days. Some people have continued to have positive Covid-19 tests for up to 12 weeks after they had symptoms, but researchers did not find evidence that they were contagious. Most people who are diagnosed with Covid-19 can stop isolation 10 days after their symptoms began if they have not had a fever for at least 24 hours.

Should I Get a Covid-19 Vaccine?

Absolutely. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all eligible individuals get the Covid-19 vaccine, even if they have been diagnosed with the virus in the past. A big reason for this is that it is unclear how long immunity lasts after a person has had Covid-19, and the vaccine will provide continued protection. For those who were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, the CDC recommends waiting 90 days before getting the vaccine.

How Can I Manage Symptoms?

Depending on what symptoms you are dealing with, over-the-counter medications can be helpful. Fevers and body aches may respond to acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. Low-intensity aerobic exercises like walking or yoga can also help with fatigue and improving breathing.

“If you are still experiencing symptoms of Covid-19, it is important to consult with your doctor about how to treat them,” says Sarah Hilton, a registered nurse. “Your doctor can help determine if there are any underlying problems that are making symptoms worse and help find the best treatment options for you.”

Although millions of people have had Covid-19, it is still a new disease that scientists are continuing to study. It can be frustrating to fight symptoms for weeks and months, but ongoing research will help get a clearer picture of the disease and how to help current and recovered patients.