The 5 Warning Signs You're Likely to Suffer From "Long COVID"

One in 20 COVID patients don't fully recover for two months, new research shows.

One of the most distressing discoveries made about the novel coronavirus is just how differently it can affect each person—and for how long. Recently, studies have been delving into why many patients continue to suffer some kind of lingering symptoms and complications that can last for weeks or even months. In the latest study out of King's College London, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, researchers looked at self-reported data from coronavirus patients using the COVID Symptom Study app. They specifically examined the reported complications among 4,182 COVID-positive patients who had been consistently logging their symptoms in the app.

They found that 1 in 7 patients infected with the coronavirus have symptoms that last for as long as four weeks; 1 in 20 patients suffer for up to eight weeks; and 1 in 45 remain sick for at least three months.

After analyzing the symptoms further, the researchers concluded that there some consistent factors that put a patient at a higher risk of "long COVID," some of which you can control and others of which you can't. Read on to find out if you're likely to be affected by this lingering illness, and for more on how you can inactivate the virus, check out These 2 Everyday Items Can Kill COVID in 2 Minutes, New Study Says.

Having more than five symptoms in the first week of your illness

30 something woman sick at home on couch

Those who showed initial symptoms beyond a cough, including fatigue, headache, diarrhea, and losing their sense of smell (AKA anosmia), were at an increased risk of developing long COVID. "The five symptoms experienced during the first week most predictive of long-COVID were: fatigue, headache, dyspnoea, hoarse voice, and myalgia," the researchers noted.

"Having more than five different symptoms in the first week was one of the key risk factors," Claire Steves, MD, from King's College, told BBC News. And if you notice your senses are off, check out If You Can't Smell These 2 Things, You May Have COVID.

Being over 50

high body temperature, stressed man

While we know that COVID is more likely to cause a severe illness in patients over 65, the King's College team reported that people over 50 are most likely to be battling the virus for weeks on end.

The findings showed that about 10 percent of patients under 50 have long COVID, compared to 22 percent of those over 70. And for more regular updates on the pandemic, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Being a woman

woman with face mask looking at thermometer

Among those 18 to 49 years old, women are more likely to have long-lasting COVID symptoms: 14.5 percent compared with 9.5 percent of men.

Steves told the BBC that while "we've seen from the early data coming out that men were at much more risk of very severe disease and sadly of dying from COVID, it [now] appears that women are more at risk of long COVID." And for more on what exactly women experience, check out Women Are More Likely to Have This Long-Term COVID Symptom, Study Says.

Being overweight

Woman stepping on a scale to weigh herself

Weight also plays a role, with overweight people being more likely to report long-term symptoms. According to the findings, the average body mass index (BMI) among those with shorter illnesses was 26.8, but among those with long COVID, it was 27.5. And for more signs you could be battling the virus, check out There's an 80 Percent Chance You Have COVID If You Have This Symptom.

Having asthma

woman holding asthma inhaler, school nurse secrets

Only 7.7 percent of COVID patients who struggled for a couple weeks had asthma, while, among those whose illnesses lasted two months, 15.8 percent had the condition. "Asthma was the only/unique pre-existing condition providing significant association with long-COVID-19," the researchers concluded. And if you find yourself feeling sick, know that If Your Food Tastes Like These 2 Things, You May Have COVID.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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