What Is Long COVID and How Is It Affecting People?

People all over the world are currently struggling with the consequences of Long COVID, the health problems some experience after a COVID-19 infection. 

Microscopic image from the first U.S. case of COVID-19 (CDC)
[This is a public domain image from the CDC’s Public Health Image Library].
While most people who are infected with the COVID-19 virus recover within a few weeks, some experience health effects for months, or even years, after the initial infection. These effects are often debilitating and expensive. 

Marianne Lomascolo, a nurse who has worked in COVID-19 units, said, “COVID affects people differently. One person could get it and not have any long-term problems, and one person could have them. You don’t know if you’re going to.”

According to the CDC, symptoms of Long COVID include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, heart palpitations, brain fog, stomach pain, and much more. Through their research, the National Institutes of Health RECOVER Initiative has discovered more than 200 symptoms. 

“Before COVID, my lungs were like normal lungs. And now, I won’t even be doing anything and my breath will be gone. I’ll have to focus on my breathing for a couple minutes. I never used to get headaches before unless I was sick, and now I get headaches very consistently,” said Woodgrove sophomore Rory Fricano, who suffers from Long COVID. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states Long COVID can also cause damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, and circulatory system. Since it can cause physical or mental impairment, it has been considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) since July 2021. 

Audrey Beiling, a Long COVID patient, said, “For four months I could only work for half days because I needed sleep. I have a lung specialist now who monitors my ability to breathe properly as I have scars on my lungs from COVID. They are similar to crystal deposits.”

In addition to health impacts, Long COVID has had economic effects. A recent study done by economist David Cutler of Harvard University found that the combined lost quality of life, lost earnings, and higher spending on medical care caused by Long COVID has snowballed to a total cost of $3.7 trillion. 

Madison Rider, a Woodgrove freshman who recently learned about the existence of Long COVID, said, “Given the fact I didn’t even know what Long COVID was and still don’t know how serious it can be, I believe there should be some sort of awareness about the topic.”

Scientists are still studying Long COVID and why some get it and others do not. With so much unknown, it’s important to try to stay safe.

Ways to prevent Long COVID include “staying up to date with vaccines, following doctor’s directions, [and] seeking help, especially if you’re high risk,” said Woodgrove school nurse Mrs. Lovasz.