While many people now refer to themselves as COVID “long haulers,” aspects of the lingering effects of the virus are still unclear.
So much about the COVID-19 virus (and now, its many variants) is still unclear — including just how long the symptoms and effects of infection really last. However, a few months into this global pandemic, it became increasingly clear that there were people — even those whose initial bout with the virus was mild to moderate — who weren’t getting better, even after the virus was deemed undetectable through tests.
In fact, many had lingering symptoms. This group of people is often referred to as COVID long haulers and their condition as long hauler syndrome (though those aren’t official medical terms).
Tens of thousands of people in the United States alone have experienced lingering symptoms after COVID-19, most commonly fatigue, body aches, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, inability to exercise, headache, and difficulty sleeping, according to Harvard Health.
What does it mean to be a COVID-19 long hauler?
The colloquial terms “COVID long hauler” and “long hauler syndrome” typically refer to those COVID patients who have persistent symptoms lasting more than six weeks after their initial infection, explains Denyse Lutchmansingh, M.D., clinical lead of the Post-Covid-19 Recovery Program at Yale Medicine. Dr. Lutchmansingh.
The medical community also sometimes refers to these instances as “post-COVID syndrome,” though there isn’t a consensus among physicians as to a formal definition for this condition, according to Natalie Lambert, Ph.D., associate research professor of biostatistics at Indiana University, who has been compiling data about these so-called COVID long-haulers.
This is partially due to the newness of COVID-19 in general — so much is still unknown. The other issue is that only a small part of the long hauler community has been identified, diagnosed, and involved in research — and most people in the research pool are considered “the most severe of cases,” says Lambert.