You may know people struggling with long COVID...when symptoms linger more than 4 weeks after initial infection.
COVID-19 can leave lasting effects anywhere in the body...causing brain fog, diarrhea, shortness of breath, etc.
Problems seem to be more common in people who’ve had severe COVID-19 (hospitalized, etc), a repeat infection, or are unvaccinated.
But even those who had mild or no symptoms can be affected.
And symptoms can be vague...can come and go or worsen with activity...and may take months to improve.
There’s still a lot to learn about long COVID...and there’s no proven treatment yet.
People should manage symptoms as they would otherwise. For example, acetaminophen or an NSAID (ibuprofen, etc) may be used for headache...honey for cough...or loperamide for diarrhea.
Nondrug measures should also be tried...such as meditation or limiting caffeine for sleep problems.
Show empathy when people talk about their experiences with long COVID...and consider how you may be able to help.
For example, you may be able to offer Rx delivery to patients with fatigue...or Rx reminders for those with brain fog.
Continue to encourage patients to stay current with COVID-19 vaccination...it’s the best bet at prevention and reducing long COVID risk. But be aware, there’s no good evidence that COVID-19 vaccines improve symptoms if given to patients WITH long COVID.
Help ensure timely access to COVID-19 meds (Paxlovid, etc).
High-risk patients (diabetes, etc) who get COVID-19 should start treatment ASAP...to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death.
Plus preliminary data suggest that starting Paxlovid within 5 days of infection may also reduce risk of long COVID.
You may hear that metformin started within 3 days of infection lowers the potential for developing long COVID. But this is also based on preliminary data...and it’s too soon for widespread use.
Encourage anyone who wants to contribute to research about long COVID to explore RecoverCOVID.org.
- https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects/index.html (3-24-23)
- https://www.covid.gov/assets/files/Services-and-Supports-for-Longer-Term-Impacts-of-COVID-19-08012022.pdf (3-24-23)
- https://www.idsociety.org/covid-19-real-time-learning-network/disease-manifestations--complications/post-covid-syndrome/ (3-24-23)
- https://www.publichealth.va.gov/n-coronavirus/docs/Whole-Health-System-Approach-to-Long-COVID_080122_FINAL.pdf (3-24-23)
- https://www.who.int/europe/publications/i/item/WHO-EURO-2021-855-40590-59892 (3-24-23)