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Coronavirus symptoms update: What is long COVID? Experts explains symptoms to spot

Almost daily new information is being received regarding COVID-19 with strange symptoms explained by many patients. Long COVID is a new phenomenon which is puzzling leading health experts. What is it and what are the symptoms to spot?

One aspect of COVID-19 which is not yet to fully understood is the virus’ longevity.

A recent study found nearly three quarters of Coronavirus patients admitted to hospital suffer ongoing symptoms three months later.

This phenomenon is being called ‘long COVID’ and Dr Ben Littlewood-Hillsdon, Chief Medical Officer of leading symptom assessment tool Doctorlink spoke exclusively with to explain more.

When asked what exactly is long COVID, Dr Little-Hillson said: “Firstly, it’s important to know that ‘long COVID’ is not an official medical term, but a colloquial term being used to describe people whose symptoms go on for longer than the two-week symptom period officially recognised by the World Health Organisation.

“As with the acute stage of the disease, the long-term symptoms are still far from being fully understood.

“You may have seen news articles reporting there are 100s of potential symptoms of long COVID, ranging from heart palpitations to bed wetting.

“The all-party parliamentary group (APPG) of MPs on Coronavirus has also formed a list of 16 symptoms which ‘long haulers’ are reportedly suffering from.

“However, please note that at this stage, as ‘long COVID’ is yet to be officially recognised medically, the symptoms reported in these articles should not be taken as official after-effects of the virus.”

Dr Littlewood-Hillsdon provides a list of long COVID symptoms which include tiredness, aches and pains, cognitive problems, breathlessness, dry cough, loss of taste and smell, and a rash on skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes.

“Reports suggest that there is not a direct correlation between the severity of the initial illness to who is then developing long-term symptoms,” added Dr Littlewood-Hillsdon.

He continued: “There have been people who have been in intensive care with COVID-19, but who have made a full recovery, whilst on the other end of the scale, there are people who had a relatively minor infection, but have then gone on to experience symptoms that don’t go away for months.

“There is a huge amount of funding going into large-scale research projects, so medical professionals can better understand the ways in which the virus manifests itself.”

Asked when a person should seek medical advice and care regarding potential long COVID symptoms, Dr Littlewood-Hillsdon answered: “As soon as you develop any symptoms of COVID-19 you should ensure to get tested.

“If you test positive, NHS Track and Trace will be in touch with details on how long you need to isolate for and to ask questions about where you’ve been and who you’ve been physically close to.

“This is imperative to help control the spread of the virus.

“Keep a close eye on your symptoms and keep note of when they started and how long they are going on for.

The World Health Organisation has stated that symptoms of COVID-19 should generally clear up within 14 days, so if any of your symptoms persist for longer than this, it’s possible you are experiencing ‘long COVID’.

Dr Littlewood-Hillsdon added: “Whilst there is no treatment currently prescribed, patients should try to support their immune systems through healthy, balanced eating, drinking enough fluids and general exercise.

“You can check your symptoms 24/7 with a digital triage tool such as Doctorlink, which will point you in the direction of the appropriate form of care. 

“Alternatively, dial 111 or speak to your GP.

“Depending on the combination of symptoms you are experiencing and their severity, you may be advised to seek further medical attention.”

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