COVID is leaving a trail of patients who suffer debilitating symptoms every day – such as exhaustion and body aches.
Millions of people worldwide have recovered from Covid, but are still sick.
The condition has been dubbed as "long-Covid", most commonly causing chronic fatigue and physical pain.
Over two million adults in England may have the condition, studies have claimed.
The chances of having long-term symptoms do not seem to be linked to how ill you are when you first had the coronavirus.
But there does seem to be some risk factors – including being a woman, aged 35 to 69, having obesity or an underlying health condition, living in a poor area or working in healthcare.
A top doctor has previously said long Covid may be worse in patients who had mild symptoms.
Experts have warned that as the number of individuals infected with coronavirus worldwide rises, so will the burden on health systems to treat long Covid patients.
What is long-Covid?
Experts say there is still much that needs to be understood about the virus.
Speaking to The Sun, Dr Ben Littlewood-Hillsdon, chief medical officer of symptom assessment tool Doctorlink said one aspect of Covid-19 which is yet to be fully understood is its longevity.
"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 WHO," Dr Ben said.
"As with the acute stage of the disease, the long-term symptoms are still far from being fully understood."
The all-party parliamentary group (APPG) of MPs on the coronavirus have previously claimed there were 16 symptoms that people with long-Covid suffer with.
But what are these symptoms of long Covid and what do you need to watch out for?
Exhaustion or extreme tiredness usually goes by the medical term post-virus fatigue.
Dr Ben said: "People suspected of suffering with long-Covid are reporting ongoing fatigue and extreme tiredness.
"Some have reported struggling to carry out even basic activities such as walking up the stairs."
Numerous studies have found fatigue is the most common symptom of long Covid.
If you are suffering from exhaustion then you will have little or no energy – leaving you unable to do everyday tasks.
2. High temperature
A high temperature is a key symptom of the coronavirus – anything over 38C is considered to be a high temperature.
Your normal body temperature is approximately 37C.
In babies and children a normal temp is about 36.4C, but this can vary slightly from child to child.
A study in the US suggested that one in ten people with long Covid suffer "intermittent fever".
Although diarrhoea has is not listed as a main symptom of the coronavirus, US health officials have it on their list while experts at King's College London had previously identified this as a symptom.
And research has suggested it can extend well past the initial coronavirus infection, although it seems rare.
One analysis of long Covid studies suggested "digestive disorders" plague 12 per cent of long haulers.
It's also listed by the NHS as a symptom of long Covid, along with stomach aches, loss of appetite and feeling sick.
4. Hair loss
Research suggests that around a quarter of long Covid sufferers experience hair loss.
It includes an online survey of 1,500 people who said they had survived Covid, of which 27 per cent said they had seen some form of hair loss.
This could be hair loss of the scalp, or on other parts of the body such as the eyebrows.
The condition know as telogen effluvium (TE), is when a person temporarily experiences hair loss.
It is usually the result of stress, and so is difficult to say whether it is a direct result of the virus.
5. Chest pain
Coronavirus is an infection that attacks the lungs so it's no surprise that people who contract the virus are likely to suffer from chest pains.
It is estimated to affect around 16 per cent of those with long Covid.
Some may have also been put on a ventilator which may cause pain later on.
Many people with long Covid had reported experiencing chest pains when climbing the stairs or walking.
Insomnia is a condition which means you are unable to sleep for prolonged periods of time.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) previously heard that people with long Covid feel pressure to return to work.
NHS sets up centres to tackle long Covid
THE NHS has set up special centres for thousands of people suffering with long Covid – as one in five people develop lasting symptoms after contracting the coronavirus.
Since December assessment centres have been taking referrals from GPs for people experiencing conditions such as anxiety, brain fog, breathlessness, depression, fatigue and other debilitating symptoms.
Patients will need to be referred by their GP who will asses their symptoms so that they can rule out other health conditions before referring patients to the long Covid centres.
There will be a total of 69 centres dotted across the country and NHS England has coughed up £10 million in funding for the network of clinics.
Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive hailed the move and said the NHS was “taking action” to help those still suffering from ongoing symptoms.
Research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that one in five people with Covid-19 develop longer term symptoms and around 186,000 people suffer from problems for up to 12 weeks.
Some 11.5 per cent were still suffering fatigue after five weeks, 11.4 a cough and 10.1 per cent a headache.
Patients who have overcome the virus have said they have experienced a hallucination.
A hallucination is when someone sees, hears, smells, tastes or feels things that don't exist outside their mind.
They can be frightening and are often caused by medications.
A study previously found that there had been a rise in patients suffering from neurological conditions – with 36 per cent of patients having reported neurological issues.
8. Covid toes
"Covid toes" is mainly seen in kids, doctors say.
Medics treating Covid-19 patients have continuously reported seeing unusual cases where people have developed blisters and purple lesions on their feet.
Sometimes the skin condition is still there several months later.
Doctors believe that the condition is inflammatory.
Dermatologists say the skin complaint was “relatively rare” before the pandemic, suggesting it is definitely as a result of Covid.
Chills are another symptom that people with long Covid have experienced, affecting around seven per cent of patients.
It is the feeling you get when you start to feel cold despite there being no reason for this.
They can occur with a fever and can make you shiver and shake, also making it feel like it's impossible for you to get warm.
Patients who are suffering with long Covid have reported feeling disorientated with their surroundings.
Many patients have reported feeling delirium, confusion and anxiety.
In particular, doctors say those with severe coronavirus who are admitted to hospital often develop an acute brain condition called “ICU delirium."
Now many patients with long Covid have continued to suffer from these issues.
11. Cognitive problems
Cognitive issues include suffering from memory loss, struggling to pay attention and finding it hard to understand others.
This can be debilitating for sufferers and many with the symptom have been unable to return to work.
Experts said that this may be caused by direct viral infection of the brain tissue.
Dr Ben said: "Whilst cognitive problems is not a recognised symptom of the virus, there is increasing evidence that brain fog, concentration difficulties and memory loss may be long-term effects of Covid-19.
"These have been reported in patients both young and old."
12. Breathing issues
Dr Ben said research teams are seeing a good proportion of people reporting ongoing respiratory problems such as breathlessness in the weeks and months after first experiencing symptoms.
Most people who have the coronavirus are likely to experience breathing issues as it is a condition that attacks the lungs.
But once patients have recovered many are still reporting this issue – around a quarter.
The ONS said of the million people with Covid in May, almost half (405,000) had shortness of breath.
Shortness of breath feels as though you are not getting the right amount of oxygen you need. It can feel like you are struggling to catch your breath.
13. Muscle or body aches
Most people will be used to experiencing muscle or body aches if they have had a long session at the gym.
But people suffering from long Covid are often experiencing these issues and are unable to do simple things like get up out of a chair without struggling.
It appears around a third of people may have muscle aches, according to ONS data of current long haulers.
Inflammation caused by Covid can aggravate the muscles.
Dr Ben added: "Muscle aches and pains are a commonly experienced symptom of Covid-19 – if your limbs are still feeling achy and heavy weeks or months after your diagnoses, you may be experiencing long-Covid".
14. A heart rate of more than 100 beats a minute (Tachycardia)
Most people will usually experience a heart rate of over 100 beats a minutes if they have just exericised.
A normal resting heart rate for adults can be anywhere between 60 and 100 and factors like weight can also contribute to this and typically people who weigh more have higher resting heart rates.
Experts have previously said that athletes who recover from the virus may face dire or lasting heart complications.
Having a high heart rate can make you feel as though you are out of breath.
People who have recovered from the virus and are suffering from long Covid claim that they have experienced vomiting.
In China, around only 5 per cent of coronavirus sufferers were being sick or had nausea – compared to more common symptoms like fever (87.9%) or dry cough (67.7 per cent).
Yet, you can not rule out vomiting as a symptom, with former Page 3 model and actress Linda Lusardi claiming the virus made her sick, but in a different colour.
Now people with long Covid have warned that this is an ongoing symptom.
16. Issues with your heart rate or its rhythm (Arrhythmia)
Having issues with your heart rate has also been reported by people with long-Covid.
This means that it might feel as though your heart has skipped a beat as it is not in sync with it's natural rhythm.
The heart can beat too fast or too slow.
It is usually the result of a weak or damaged heart.
Why aren't all patients experiencing these symptoms?
Dr Ben said that it's not yet clear why some coronavirus survivors are suffering these symptoms while others make full recoveries.
"Reports suggest that there is not a direct correlation between the severity of the initial illness to who is then developing long-term symptoms.
"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."
Summarising, he said this is still unknown, but 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.
When should I seek help?
The NHS says if you have symptoms of long Covid, your doctor will talk to you about the care and support you might need.
If the symptoms are having a big impact on your life, you may be referred to a specialist to help manage your condition.
If you are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus – such as a new persistent cough, a high temperature or a loss of taste or smell – then you need to get tested for Covid infection.
Dr Ben said: "WHO 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.’"
"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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