Things which the Long Haulers should be aware of.
These are extraordinary times. The world has been going through a period of pain due to the Corona pandemic. The disease spread so rapidly across the world last year that people were taken unawares.
A high number of deaths created further panic and the governments swiftly came into action.
Strict lockdown measures were imposed and people were advised to maintain social distancing and use face masks to minimize the risk of infection. The scramble for a vaccine began and there was a race to get the vaccine at the earliest. Finally, the hard work has paid off and people across the world are getting vaccinated.
But that has not solved the problem. The complete vaccination would take a long time and in the meantime, people are still getting infected. The complete statistics are as mentioned below:
Coronavirus Cases till now:
The figures themselves display the gravity of the situation. A large number of people have recovered but we cannot say that they are fit. Many continue to battle the symptoms of the illness, long after they have clinically tested negative for the disease. These people suffer from disabling after-effects of the disease after having been declared COVID-free; with some even experiencing newer symptoms after testing negative.
A long-hauler is a person who suffers from symptoms of Covid-19 for longer than two weeks, and maybe even for months.
We will first go through the symptoms of Coronavirus so that we would be able to compare them with those of the Covid-19 long haulers. The symptoms of coronavirus are-
Most common symptoms:
Less common symptoms:
Aches and pains
Loss of taste or smell
A rash on the skin
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Chest pain or pressure
Loss of speech or movement
After the vaccine arrived, people heaved a sigh of relief but there are reports of mutations of the virus and lockdown has been again imposed at many places. Overall there is a general belief that the vaccine will bring much-needed relief.
People who have recovered are happy to have survived, but for many, the happiness is short-lived when the symptoms still persist. They discover that the disease can have a lasting effect on the body. Research is still going on and efforts are being made to deal with the situation. The most common symptoms of the long haulers are as given below-
- Body aches or joint pain
- Brain fog & difficulty in concentrating
- Chest tightness, pressure, or pain
- Elevated temperature
- Heart palpitations
- Inability to exercise
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Long-haulers may also experience a racing heart and even a persistent loss of smell. They often complain of not being able to go back to their previously active lifestyles or return to the workplace. We will discuss the most common symptoms:
Fatigue and Brain Fog
One of the most common post-Covid-19 complications is brain fog which results in a lack of focus and extreme exhaustion. People have difficulty concentrating and the situation can last for months. A similar problem had also occurred after the SARS outbreak two decades ago.
A persistent cough and shortness of breath are common among long haulers. They find it difficult to exercise and be active. As an example-an illness can make it difficult for a person to climb stairs till they recover, but for long haulers, it is a long-term game and they can feel the effect for a long time.
Many people report that they have pain in their joints or in feet. Organ damage or inflammation can cause discomfort.
Impact of Covid-19 on long Haulers
The situation has got the doctors concerned as there would be a surge in the number of people battling lasting illness and disabilities. No one is sure what the long term impacts would be as the disease is new. The virus itself may damage many organs and there may be some surprising symptoms.
The most discussed topic among medical professionals is how the medical community would deal with an increasing number of long haulers. The opinion is still divided on how long the symptoms would last and if the damage would be permanent.
The first place to check for long term harm is the lungs because Covid-19 begins as a respiratory infection. Other places for long-term damage may be the heart, immune system, brain, and any other affected part of the body.
If we go through the studies of the SARS epidemic, we will find that these effects can last for years. Peking University people’s hospital in Beijing tracked the SARS cases from 2003 to 2018 and found that even after fifteen years, 4.6% still had visible lesions in their lungs and their lungs were poor at transferring oxygen into the blood and removing carbon dioxide.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, top infectious disease expert in the US has remarked-
“This is a phenomenon that is really quite real and quite extensive. While the number of people affected is still unknown, if long-term symptoms afflict even a small proportion of the millions of people infected with the coronavirus, it is going to represent a significant public health issue.”
Many affected people have mentioned how months of illness have contributed to anxiety and depression due to disruption in their work, social, and exercise routines. Some people have cut themselves off from the community because they find it difficult to explain the problems which they themselves do not understand.
People have formed support groups on social media to find comfort and share their physical symptoms.
One covid-19 long hauler remarked “Every symptom I have experienced is echoed by dozens of people. We can’t all be hallucinating the same symptoms.”
Though the social media groups provide support there is a risk involved when the users spread misinformation by sharing unverified medical advice. So the groups should moderate the content.
Taking help of Doctor
If you are a long hauler you should take the help of your doctor whenever you experience an emergency warning sign. These symptoms are a sign of damage to organ systems, heart, or lung. A physician can determine if further testing is required.
As society is becoming more aware of the problem, hospitals are being designed especially for long haulers as more and more people are getting affected by the pandemic. Many of them have put together a team for cardiology, neurology, pulmonary and further streamlining the process for patients to get an effective response.
A patient may see a neuron infectious disease doctor for neurological effects of the virus, a cardiologist for long term heart issues, and other physical medicine specialists according to the situation.
The biggest challenge among long haulers would be to remain employed. Employers too should be accommodative towards these people. The stress of keeping up with sickness and not losing the job could lead to other mental health issues.
People are fatigued with staying home and wearing masks, but it helps as it is safe. They should keep up with the latest developments and stay informed on the progress in treatment from websites. The physicians should also stay up to date on the new research and findings in order to properly guide their patients.
Long haulers should not become overwhelmed by the disease and stay in touch with other survivors of the virus to learn of their recovery process.
The arrival of the vaccine has provided some solace and with the passage of time more details of the disease would be available and medical professionals would come together for fighting against it. Till then the long haulers will have to bid their time and be patient.