What are the symptoms of COVID long-hauler syndrome?
As part of Lambert’s studies, she’s published the COVID-19 “Long-Hauler” Symptoms Survey Report, which includes a list of more than 100 of the symptoms reported by those who self-identify as long haulers.
These long-term effects of COVID-19 can include those symptoms listed by the CDC, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain, chest pain, difficulty concentrating (aka “brain fog”), depression, muscle pain, headache, fever, or heart palpitations. Additionally, less common but more serious COVID long-term effects may include cardiovascular damage, respiratory abnormalities, and kidney injury.
There are also reports of dermatologic symptoms such as a COVID rash or — as actress Alyssa Milano has said she’s experienced — hair loss from COVID. Additional symptoms include loss of smell or taste, sleep problems, and COVID-19 can cause heart, lung, or brain damage that results in long-term health problems, according to the Mayo Clinic. (Related: I Got Encephalitis As a Result of COVID — and It Nearly Killed Me)
“It is too early to determine if these symptoms are long-lasting or permanent,” says Dr. Lutchmansingh. “We know from prior experience with SARS and MERS that patients can have persistent respiratory symptoms, abnormal pulmonary function tests, and reduced exercise capacity more than one year after the initial infection.” (SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV were the coronaviruses that spread throughout the world in 2003 and 2012, respectively.)
How common are these long-term effects of COVID-19?
While it’s unclear exactly how many people are suffering from these lingering effects, “it’s estimated that about 10 to 14 percent of all patients who have had COVID will have post-COVID syndrome,” says Ravindra Ganesh, M.D., who has been treating COVID long-haulers for the last several months at the Mayo Clinic. However, that number could actually be much higher, depending on how someone defines the condition, adds Lambert.
“COVID-19 is a new human disease, and the medical community is still racing to understand it,” says William W. Li, M.D., internal medicine physician, scientist, and author of Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself. “While a lot has been learned about the illness caused by acute COVID-19 since the pandemic started, the long-term complications are still being cataloged.” (Related: How Effective Is the COVID-19 Vaccine?)