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Understanding the Effects of Long COVID in Adults

As of October 2020, the World Health Organization estimates that one in ten people around the world have possibly contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Despite 35 million people confirming they have been infected, experts believe that the real number is well above that as some are asymptomatic infections. Unfortunately for some of the survivors, COVID-19 recovery doesn't just end when the virus is no longer detectable in their bodies. Some may experience a condition called long COVID where some symptoms persist long after the initial infection.

What is Long COVID?

Long-haul COVID-19, also known as long COVID or post COVID, is a condition in which people who have been cleared of the virus for weeks or even months still experience symptoms. Some of the diverse but common symptoms that long haulers experience, at varying degrees of severity, are chest/ throat pain, abnormal breathing, chronic fatigue, and brain fog. These can get worse if a person undergoes significant physical or mental activities.

Researchers are still unsure as to what causes long COVID, though one of the possible answers is that it may trigger autoimmunity, this is when the immune system mistakenly turns against the body. This may be caused by fragments of the virus, such as protein molecules, that still somehow disrupt the body without infecting cells. But it’s unclear how long the autoantibodies, which were produced to fight against COVID, will also attack the body, will continue to attack or how long the body will produce these. Another idea suggests that long COVID is a multisystem disorder, as many long haulers have shown problems with multiple organs, from acute respiratory distress syndrome to dysautonomia. However, as COVID-19 is still a new disease, it’s still too early to say exactly why and how long COVID happens.

It’s worth noting that anyone is at risk for being a long hauler — even those who were asymptomatic or experienced only mild symptoms. Age and health at the time of catching the virus don’t seem to matter either. However, you can significantly reduce your chances of experiencing long COVID if you get vaccinated. If a fully vaccinated person happens to get COVID-19, they either experience only mild long COVID symptoms or none at all.

Managing Long COVID

Patients can recover from COVID-19 on their own, or with the help of short hospital stays, in a matter of weeks or months. But depending on which parts of the body the virus affected, complete recovery may sometimes be unlikely. This may be the case, for example, for severe cases of acute kidney injury, which will require a patient to undergo hemodialysis and take prescription medication. Type 2 diabetes is another chronic illness that COVID survivors seem to be developing symptoms for.

In these cases, you may need to form a long-term partnership with healthcare professionals, like nurses, to help you manage your symptoms and overall care plan. You’ll need to look for someone with advanced nursing training, as they are qualified to navigate the complex healthcare system and have the experience to give you the care you need. Long COVID is still new in the healthcare world, but these professionals have foundations in clinical care research and evidence-based practice, which will better inform their decisions on how best to help you manage your condition.

You can also remotely manage long COVID with the help of supportive communities through apps that allow you to connect with others through live events and forums. These apps are also very useful for those with chronic conditions as they can track symptoms and medication compliance and customize meal plans. Activity tracking is important as well since long COVID symptoms might worsen if you strain yourself physically and mentally. Fortunately, you can improve your energy levels by starting with light aerobic exercise, like walking, and then gradually increasing the intensity as your tolerance gets better.

Long COVID makes COVID-19 itself look more threatening and complex. But with the right precautions, you can manage long COVID symptoms or even prevent yourself from getting it in the first place.

Contributed by Jasmine Boggart

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Long COVID Community & Support

Want to be a part of the conversation? Join our growing Aila Health Long COVID community. Aila Health also offers free live group support for Long COVID patients! Join us for our weekly Wednesdays meetup from 9-9:30am PT (join for free in the Aila Health app). We come together as a community to share stories, connect with experts, and find healing.

Virtual Post-COVID Clinic

Aila Health is an integrative virtual health platform that provides personalized health and support resources to autoimmune and chronic illness patients. With the Aila app, people can track all their health information in one place, connect with a community of Long COVID warriors, work with an integrative wellness coach, and schedule appointments with post-COVID healthcare providers! Aila’s COVID recovery care team is here to help you manage your symptoms and get back on track with your health. Learn more about the virtual clinic.

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