What Comes After COVID-19?

For some, post-COVID-19 symptoms may persist for weeks or months

(RxWiki News) For many people who get COVID-19, symptoms end within a couple of weeks. But for others, post-COVID-19 symptoms may stick around for weeks or months.

As the coronavirus pandemic has grown, researchers and health officials have gained new insight into the virus and how it affects people. One thing that has become clear to experts as time has passed is that COVID-19 recovery looks different for different people.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says COVID-19 recovery takes two weeks on average for those with mild cases. But those with severe cases may not see their symptoms resolve for up to six weeks.

And research published in JAMA found that 87.4 percent of those who have recovered from COVID-19 reported at least one remaining symptom after two weeks. Fatigue and shortness of breath were the most common persistent symptoms reported in this research.

Anecdotal evidence from organizations like the American Heart Association suggested that some people were experiencing symptoms like loss of smell and taste and others for months.

In addition to shortness of breath, fatigue, and loss of taste and smell, cough, headache and joint pain were the most common lingering COVID-19 symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.

COVID-19 can damage organs like the heart, lungs and brain, according to the Mayo Clinic. This organ damage can be permanent and lead to many long-term symptoms. Here are some of the long-term COVID-19 effects that can occur due to organ damage:

  • Lungs – Pneumonia tied to COVID-19 infection can cause scar tissue in the lungs that leads to breathing problems.
  • Heart – Damage to the heart muscle from COVID-19 may increase the risk of heart failure and similar problems in the long term.
  • Brain – COVID-19 may increase the risk of strokes, temporary paralysis from Guillain-Barre syndrome, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

While many lingering COVID-19 effects are being called "long-term," it is still too early to tell exactly how long these effects will last because the virus was only detected less than a year ago, according to the American Heart Association. And many potential effects of the virus are likely still unknown.

The good news is that current data suggest that most people recover from COVID-19 within a few weeks. But because so many people appear to have longer-term effects, health experts are calling for increased monitoring of patients who have recovered to learn more about what comes after COVID-19 infection.

If you are concerned about any symptoms you are having that may be related to COVID-19, reach out to your health care provider.

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Review Date: 
September 13, 2020