There have been over 80 million reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States since the pandemic began.1 Although there aren’t exact numbers, most people have successfully recovered in the weeks following their illness. However, a growing group of people experience lingering effects of COVID-19.
While scientists and health professionals are in the very early stages of researching and understanding these issues, here is what we know so far about the lingering effects of COVID-19 and what you can do to seek relief.
While the media has coined the term “long COVID,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls these symptoms “post-COVID conditions.”
A post-COVID condition is a general term for any symptom or symptoms present four or more weeks after someone has been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.2
“Post-COVID conditions can occur in over 40% of patients infected with coronavirus. This presents a significant challenge for people who simply want to return to their baseline health after recovering from the initial infection,” said Dr. Lauren Browne, Teladoc Lead Physician and Communicable Disease Expert.
The possible symptoms that can make up a post-COVID condition are broad. Directly from the CDC, these include:3
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities (also known as post-exertional malaise)
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
- Chest or stomach pain
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
- Joint or muscle pain
- Pins-and-needles feeling
- Sleep problems
- Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness)
- Mood changes
- Change in smell or taste
- Changes in menstrual period cycles
CDC research currently shows that:3
- These symptoms can happen to anyone who previously had COVID-19, regardless of the severity of the initial illness
- Symptoms can occur in different combinations of new and ongoing symptoms for different people
- Post-COVID condition can last for weeks or months following the initial illness
- Post-COVID condition can happen to anyone at any age, although it is more common in adults
It’s important to talk to your primary care doctor if you feel you’re still experiencing any of the above symptoms in the weeks or months following infection. You don’t have to suffer alone. Your care team should consider your medical history and current symptoms before determining if you’re suffering from a post-COVID condition.
Your care team should help you create a holistic treatment plan to manage your symptoms. Because there are so many symptoms under the post-COVID conditions umbrella, your treatment should be unique to your needs.
Although post-COVID conditions are not yet fully understood, the main goal of treatment is to optimize your quality of life and function.4
“As with other post-viral syndromes, treatment continues to be a challenge. But there are steps people can take to maximize and accelerate the healing process. We want to make sure that people have the information and guidance they need to take those steps and ultimately, feel better,” said Dr. Browne.
Two helpful resources from the CDC:
- Before you talk to your doctor, check out the CDC’s healthcare appointment checklist for post-COVID conditions. This checklist provides tips for making the most of your appointment.
- If your loved one is suffering, the CDC has additional tips on caring for people with post-COVID conditions.
Teladoc can help you figure out the next best step
If you’re struggling with post-COVID conditions, Teladoc Expert Medical Opinion can help by connecting you or your dependents to leading medical experts.
Expert Medical Opinion can help if you:
- Have questions or need advice on post-COVID conditions
- Feel your current treatment plan is not working
- Are unsure about which treatment option to choose
- Need help finding a local expert who specializes in treating post-COVID conditions
- Have been admitted to the hospital and want expert guidance
“Our experts offer personalized guidance, tailored to your unique health history and concerns, to promote and support your journey to recovery,” said Dr. Browne.
To get an Expert Medical Opinion:
- On the app or online, select Specialists and Expert Medical Opinion, then Expert Medical Opinion.
- Fill out the information requested.
- A specially selected registered nurse will guide you throughout the process and follow up with you regularly.
- You don’t have to switch doctors. And you don’t have to leave home or go to a doctor’s office to pick up or transfer any of your medical records or previous test results. The nurse takes care of this for you.
After thoroughly reviewing your diagnosis and current treatment plan, the medical expert will give you a detailed report that’s easy to understand. The report can also be sent to your treating physician if you choose to share it. While the report may include treatment recommendations, you and your doctor will make all decisions about your care. Your records and consultations will remain private and held in strict confidentiality (according to HIPAA regulations) throughout the process.
Post-COVID conditions can cause additional stress. To help, here are six ways to manage stress.