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Q: What is "long-haul COVID"?

Most people with COVID-19 indeed recover from the illness. But there is growing evidence that some people experience long-term symptoms even after they recover. These symptoms can last for weeks or even months after the initial COVID-19 infection.

According to the CDC, some common symptoms of "long-haul COVID" can include fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain, and chest pain. Others have reported long-term symptoms, including "brain fog," depression, persistent muscle pain, headache, intermittent fever, and a racing heartbeat.

While less common, some people have reported more serious long-term complications from COVID-19, including inflammation of the heart, persistent problems with lung function, kidney damage, skin rashes, hair loss, ongoing loss of taste and smell, memory problems, anxiety, and mood changes.

Even though COVID-19 is thought of as a disease that is most deadly to older people, "long-haul COVID" can affect people of all ages, including young people.

Scientists are still learning about COVID-19 and how it affects the body, so it's not yet clear why some people experience long-term symptoms. And because there is such a wide variety of symptoms, doctors are still learning how to treat this problem.

The bottom line is that COVID-19 can be dangerous to anyone, not just those who are older and/or have existing health and medical issues. “Long-haul COVID" is real and is another reason to continue vigilance in protecting yourself and others. This includes getting a vaccine when it's available to you and continuing to wear a mask, social distance, avoid gatherings, and wash your hands frequently, even after getting vaccinated.

Vijak S. Ayasanonda, MD

Emergency medicine

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