Q: I had COVID in March 2021, along with my husband and one of our adult children. It wasn’t severe for any of us, and they’re both now fine, yet I’m still overly tired and have a hard time focusing mentally. Why me? My doctor says there’s nothing to do but wait. Am I still infected or contagious?
A: Unfortunately, your description points to what is called “long COVID.” Millions of people around the world are suffering from something similar. The diagnosis is not very precise and includes a wide variety of symptoms of varying degrees of discomfort, inconvenience, and severity that may last weeks to years after recovery from an acute COVID infection. Estimates of COVID patients who develop this condition range from 30 to 70 percent. Long COVID has significantly affected the lives and livelihoods of millions of people around the world.
There’s no one test for long COVID, so doctors use descriptions such as yours to make the clinical diagnosis. But some family members and friends who have completely recovered from COVID and even some doctors may not take long COVID symptoms seriously. This increases the psychological stress of sufferers immensely.
We can’t answer your “Why me?” question, but we do emphasize that anyone who gets acutely infected can get long COVID; nonetheless, we’ve listed the currently associated relative risk factors in the table below. People with this condition aren’t known to be contagious, so you don’t have to be overly concerned about spreading the virus to family or friends; however, please use prudent measures to avoid exposing the vulnerable people around you.
What causes long COVID? The SARS-CoV-2 virus may “hide” in tissues and organs and induce the production of chemicals that stimulate inflammation, activate our blood-clotting platelets, and damage the cells lining our blood vessels. One hypothesis is that the symptoms are correlated with the location of the inflammation. Unfortunately, we still don’t know why some people and not others develop long COVID. So there isn’t any reliable advice about how to reduce your risk of long COVID once you’ve already caught COVID-19. As far as treatments, health-promoting lifestyle habits; antihistamines; naltrexone, a generic anti-addiction medication; antivirals; anticlotting agents; steroids; and nutritional supplements are all being used with variable benefits.
The virus of COVID-19 is not yet finished with us, but following the God-given lifestyle that optimizes our immune resilience and observing prudent public health measures are still effective in reducing our overall risk of COVID (and a multitude of other illnesses). By God’s grace the research studies currently under way will soon give better solutions for individuals like you with this challenging condition.
Risk Factors for Long COVID