A few months into the coronavirus pandemic, it became clear that some people weren't recovering from the virus. They have come to be known as long haulers, and their condition, Long COVID. Researchers continue to study the strange manifestation of the virus. New research published in the medical journal Lancet has pinpointed nine of the top symptoms reported by long haulers, whose initial infections were severe. "Three quarters of patients hospitalized with COVID had at least one ongoing symptom 6 months after their acute illness," they revealed. Read on to find out what they are—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
You Might Feel Fatigue or Muscle Weakness
63 percent of respondents identified with suffering from fatigue or muscle weakness. Shawn Nasseri, MD, Mayo Clinic-trained Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, previously told Eat This, Not That! Health that the sort of exhaustion associated with long hauler syndrome is debilitating. "The feeling of extreme fatigue is the most significant symptom and having difficulty engaging in daily activities," he explains.
You Might Have Dyspnea
Difficulty breathing, or dyspnea, was reported by over one-quarter (26 percent) of the long haulers surveyed. According to John Hopkins Medicine, shortness of breath is when you feel like you can't get enough air or your chest is tight. For COVID long haulers, this can occur even when they are laying in bed or sitting on the couch.
You Might Have Sleeping Difficulties
Yes, COVID can even impact your sleep. According to the survey, 26 percent of respondents had difficulty sleeping. Unfortunately, more and better sleep is considered one of the ways to relieve long hauler symptoms.
You Might Have Anxiety or Depression
Depression and anxiety are common mental health woes experienced by 23 percent of the long haulers in the study. "Ah anxiety, my old friend," says Tessa Miller, author of the book What Doesn't Kill You. "This is such a common symptom of chronic illness that I dedicated a whole appendix (on top of the existing writing within the chapters) to it in the book. The very thing that carries you around the world (your body) has become wild, unpredictable, unrecognizable. Of course you're anxious! You feel irritable and exhausted, like your mind is constantly spinning and you can't concentrate. You can't sleep, or when you do, you have nightmares. You're isolating from your support systems. You're trying to distract yourself all the time to avoid getting at the root of what's making you feel this way. More severely, you might experience panic attacks, which speaking from experience, feel like literal death."
You Might Have Hair Loss
According to their findings, 22 percent reported losing hair. A new systematic review of studies explained that post-COVID hair loss could be considered telogen effluvium, "defined by diffuse hair loss after an important systemic stressor or infection, and it is caused because of premature follicular transitions from active growth phase (anagen) to resting phase (telogen)." They added that it is a "self-limiting condition" lasting approximately 3 months, "but it could cause emotional distress."
You Might Have a Smell Disorder
Loss of sense of taste and smell are trademark symptoms of COVID-19. While the senses most commonly return post infection, for 11 percent of these long haulers, their smell still hadn't returned after six months. "Those who are still experiencing it after six weeks will likely need help to return it," says Dr. Nasseri. So what is the relationship between the loss of these senses and COVID? He explains that in the nose there are about 10,000 olfactory cells. "They plug in from your nose directly into the olfactory bulb in the front of your brain," he says. "When you get viruses like COVID-19 it doesn't affect olfactory cells but does affect the support cells in between, the sustentacular cells. Those support cells have the ACE receptor on them and that is how COVID gets access to those cells and then propagates in those cells and you lose them. The mechanism is more clearly known now that you lose smell and taste because 90% of taste is smell and people are losing sustentacular cells."
You Might Have Palpitations
One of the many heart-related symptoms of long hauler syndrome is heart palpitations—experienced by 9 percent of people. These are "feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart," per the Mayo Clinic, who adds that "stress, exercise, medication or, rarely, a medical condition can trigger them."
You Might Have Joint Pain
Joint pain was reported by 9 percent of the long haulers. According to the Mayo Clinic, joint pain often arises as a result of inflammation. In the case of COVID-19, Penn Medicine orthopedic surgeon, Christopher S. Travers, MD explains that "Inflammation attacks joint tissues, causing fluid in your joints, swelling, muscle damage, and more."
You Might Feel "Any Symptoms"
76 percent of those hospitalized with COVID still experienced at least one symptom six months after their initial illness, according to the study.
Protect Yourself and Others
Contact a medical professional if you feel any of these Long Hauler symptoms. The best way to avoid long hauler syndrome is to stay away from COVID in the first place. So follow Fauci's fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.