Most people with COVID-19 recover and return to normal health within weeks of illness. However, some people experience symptoms that last for weeks or even months after recovery from acute illness.
These conditions can have different combination of symptoms for different length of time. To describe these wide range of health consequences that are present four or more weeks after infection with SARS-CoV-2, healthcare professionals may use an umbrella term -post COVID conditions. These post-COVID conditions may also be known as long COVID, post-acute COVID-19, long-term effects of COVID, or chronic COVID.
The WHO International Classification of Diseases (ICD) – ICD-10 U09 has proposed the name post COVID-19 condition.
A clinical case definition of post COVID-19 condition by Delphi consensus (WHO, 6 October 2021)
Post COVID-19 condition occurs in individuals with a history of probable or confirmed SARS CoV-2 infection, usually 3 months from the onset of COVID-19 with symptoms that last for at least 2 months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis. Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction but also others and generally have an impact on everyday functioning. Symptoms may be new onset following initial recovery from an acute COVID-19 episode or persist from the initial illness. Symptoms may also fluctuate or relapse over time.
(Definitions: Fluctuate – a change from time to time in quantity or quality. Relapse – return of disease manifestations after period of improvement).
People are not infectious to others during this time. Developing symptomatic Long COVID is not related with the severity of the initial COVID-19 infection or the duration of symptoms associated with it. Even people who have mild symptoms in initial illness can experience late symptoms.
People suffering from Long COVID experience symptoms affecting many body systems which may change overtime. These conditions can have different combinations of health problems for different lengths of time.
Most common post-COVID-19 symptoms are:
Gastrointestinal symptoms- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea,
Musculoskeletal symptoms- Joint and muscle pain
Ear nose and throat symptoms- Loss of smell or taste, earache, sore throat, dizziness, tinnitus (ringing in ears)
Long COVID is different from the well-recognized postintensive care syndrome, which is marked by chronically impaired pulmonary function, neuromuscular weakness, long-term psychological impacts and reduced quality of life.
There are two major reasons for post-COVID-19 symptoms:
Multiorgan effects of COVID-19: Although COVID-19 primarily affects lungs but can affect all organs including heart, brain, liver, kidney. This organ damage may increase the risk of long-term health problems.
Immunity-related: Autoimmune conditions occur when our immune system attacks healthy cells in our body by mistake, causing inflammation (painful swelling) or tissue damage in the affected parts of the body.
There is no simple test for diagnosing Long COVID. A clinical diagnosis can be made based on a history of COVID-19 and a failure to fully recover with development of some of the symptoms.
Assessment of medical condition is done according to the individual’s problems, after excluding any coexisting illness that may be giving rise to the symptoms. For example
There are different ways to help manage post-COVID conditions. If you think you have a post-COVID condition, talk to your healthcare provider about options for managing or treating your symptoms and resources for support.
Post COVID management protocol: https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/PostCOVID13092020.pdf
The best way to prevent these long-term complications is to prevent COVID-19 by adopting following measures: