Are You Especially Vulnerable to Long COVID?

A new study published in JAMA Network Open (October 27, 2022) reveals that long COVID symptoms could be affecting 15% of American adults. We are closing in on 100 million coronavirus cases in the US. If we extrapolate from the latest research, that would mean approximately 15 million people are likely suffering symptoms. Who is most vulnerable to long COVID?

Symptoms of Chronic COVID:

Have you caught the SARS-CoV-2 virus? How would you know? Millions of people were asymptomatic or had such a mild reaction that they assumed they avoided COVID-19. That does not mean, however, that they did not catch the coronavirus. More importantly, it does not mean they have long dodged COVID.

Have you experienced any of the following symptoms?

Fatigue
Exhaustion after any degree of exercise (exercise intolerance)
Headache
Brain fog or memory problems
Shortness of breath or breathing problems
Problems with the sense of smell
Dizziness
Sleeping difficulties
Anxiety and/or depression

Of course, there are lots of reasons for people to feel anxious and depressed these days. COVID articles like this one, politics, economics, news stories and work challenges are all enough to make anyone upset or trigger insomnia.

Post Exercise Malaise:

Many of us feel tired at some point during the day, especially if we don’t get a good night’s sleep. But a key tip-off to determine if you are vulnerable to prolonged COVID is something called post-exercise malaise.

Someone who has Easter (post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2) may discover that taking a walk can trigger overwhelming fatigue a day or two later. For other people, just doing the dishes or walking upstairs can lead to exhaustion the next day.

Another unusual complication of long COVID is called dysautonomia. This condition is linked to disruption of the autonomic nervous system. It is characterized by heart palpitations and dizziness upon standing. Some people also experience rapid heart rate, irregular heart rhythms, trouble catching their breath and chest pain if they stand up suddenly (Clinical Medicine, Jan. 2021).

Who Is Vulnerable to Long COVID?

The study in JAMA Network Open published on October 27, 2022 surveyed over 16,000 individuals who tested positive for COVID. These were people who had ongoing health problems at least two months after the initial COVID symptoms. Many were at least 6 to 12 months out from a positive test. Although almost anyone can develop post-COVID syndrome, this is what the authors found.

Individuals of an:

“…older age per decade above 40 years and female gender were associated with greater risk of persistence; individuals with a graduate education vs. high school or less and urban vs. rural residence were less likely to report persistence.”

Does Vaccination Make You Less Vulnerable to Chronic COVID?

The authors reviewed the medical literature and compared it to their own data:

“Two recent studies directly examined the question of protection afforded by prior vaccination, using different designs. One study examined more than 33,000 previously vaccinated individuals with breakthrough COVID-19 infection from Veterans Affairs electronic health records. The Veterans Affairs population may not fully reflect the general adult population in the US, and coded clinical data may be less sensitive to symptoms than narrative notes or patient-reported symptoms. Still, despite these differences, the approximately 24% reduction in odds of long COVID that we observed after a single vaccination (approximately 33% when applying a stricter definition of long COVID) does approximate the 15% reduction in hazard of long COVID in that study .”

The investigators conclude that their results:

“…support the potential protective association of vaccination in reducing but not eliminating long-term COVID risk.”

They also suggest that if their results are confirmed, intervening early in the course of the infection might:

“…minimize the effect of long COVID, and could contribute to efforts to prevent this syndrome altogether.”

What Is It Like to Have Long COVID?

We describe the symptoms of post-COVID syndrome above, but it is far better to listen to real people describing what they have gone through. Should you wish to learn more about long COVID, here are two radio shows that we hosted on this topic. Not only were our guests health care professionals, they also experienced symptoms of long COVID themselves. They will describe what it has been like for them.

Here is a link to Show # 1230:

What Happens When COVID Symptoms Don’t Go Away

Here is a link to Show # 1254 about POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) and long COVID:

Combating the Long-Term Effects of Post-COVID Syndrome

Coming up on The People’s Pharmacy early in 2023, we will be interviewing two experts about the latest understanding of long COVID and possible new treatments. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms, you will not want to miss this program, so stay tuned.

If you found this article of value, please share it with friends or family. And if you have experienced any symptoms of prolonged COVID, please describe your experience in the comment section below.

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