What a Doctor Wants You to Know About Long COVID
Long COVID is a medical term for the symptoms that persist after an individual has been infected with COVID-19. Unfortunately, approximately one in four patients continue to suffer from lingering symptoms even after the virus has left the body. Much like a COVID-19 infection, Long COVID can be mild or severe depending on the individual, but can last for weeks or months.
Dr. Jay Petruska with CaroMont Family Medicine in Cramerton has been helping COVID-19 patients get back to feeling their best. While medical professionals and scientists continue to learn more about the virus, there are several facts about Long COVID Dr. Petruska believes are important to understand. Read his answers to commonly asked questions below:
Who is at risk for Long COVID?
If a person has or has had COVID-19, they are at risk for developing long-term complications from the virus. Individuals with underlying conditions such as diabetes, obesity, lung disease, heart disease, or high blood pressure are more likely to develop long-term complications from a COVID-19 infection. Additionally, individuals over 50 are also at an increased risk of developing Long COVID, and women are showing signs of Long COVID more frequently than men.
This is one reason protecting yourself from COVID-19 is so important. With effective vaccines and boosters widely available, individuals have tools available to prevent or lessen the effects COVID-19 infections, even when community spread is low. I recommend vaccination and boosters, per guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control, as the best way to protect you and your loved ones from COVID-19.
What are the symptoms of Long COVID?
I have seen symptoms in my patients that last for weeks or months after an initial COVID-19 infection. The most common include fatigue, headaches, persistent cough, dizziness, shortness of breath and brain fog. Some experience heightened anxiety or depression. Much like COVID-19, you may experience all of these or just a few. It really depends on the individual.
How can I help prevent Long COVID?
The best way to prevent Long COVID is to not get COVID-19 to begin with. We are finding that individuals who had few or no symptoms can still struggle with the effects of this virus long-term. That is why vaccination and boosters are so important: they are your best safeguard against COVID-19 and proven to provide protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death.
We have learned so much in the last two years of this pandemic, but one of my most important tips for every patient is to work on their overall health. Focus on these key areas:
- Exercise 150 minutes a week, or 30 minutes a day. That amount of time can drastically improve your health and keep your lungs and heart strong.
- Don’t start smoking, or if you smoke, quit. Smoking can cause not just lung disease and cancer, but increases your likelihood of having severe complications from a COVID-19 infection. It can also cause heart disease and significantly lowers your immune response.
- Find a primary care doctor you trust and keep regular appointments with them. That relationship will ensure you are checking in on your health regularly and anything out of the ordinary can be identified and treated as soon as possible.