What are the long-term effects of coronavirus? A doctor explains

Dr Roger Wolman - MD, FRCP, FFSEM
·4-min read
Photo credit: fizkes - Getty Images
Photo credit: fizkes - Getty Images

From Netdoctor

Most people who contract the coronavirus (COVID-19) will recover fully within a few weeks. However, new research reveals that some people, even those with mild symptoms, may experience lingering health problems after their initial recovery.

These long-term effects of coronavirus may persist for several months and could lead to permanent damage to a person’s lungs, brain and heart. They may also increase a person’s risk of developing other long-term health conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome.

Dr Roger Wolman, Consultant in Rheumatology and Sports & Exercise Medicine at The Wellington Hospital, part of HCA UK, looks at the long-term effects of coronavirus and offers expert advice to help you recover quicker:

What are the long-term effects of COVID-19?

As a result of the findings from the Post COVID-19 Rehabilitation Programme at The Wellington Hospital and Harley Street Clinic, we’ve been able to identify a variety of different long-term effects of COVID-19.

Some of these can include, long-term lung or cardiac damage, where patients who tend to have been admitted to an intensive care unit, might then experience damage to their heart muscle or lungs as a result of the virus.

We’re also finding people are suffering from neurological problems, which can affect their brain and spinal cord, and some who start to develop similar symptoms to ME, and suffer with chronic fatigue.

COVID-19 can also affect people’s mental health, with it being a new and prominent illness in today’s society there is a lot of fear and concern surrounding it, it can therefore negatively affect people’s mental health as well as their physical health.

COVID-19 long-term symptoms

Some of the signs and symptoms to look out for that might indicate you could be suffering from long term effects of COVID-19 are as follows:


Photo credit: demaerre - Getty Images
Photo credit: demaerre - Getty Images

COVID-19 long-term risk factors

There are a number of different risk factors associated with COVID-19. An interesting study by King’s College London has recently been published highlighting the following factors which could lead to long-term effects:

  • Women are more likely to suffer from long-term COVID-19 symptoms, but only those who are in a younger age group.

  • Those who already suffer with asthma.

  • People who have a higher BMI.

  • Older people are more likely to suffer from long term COVID-19 effects.

How to minimise COVID-19 long-term

Long-term COVID-19 effects can be manifested in several different conditions, however, so far it appears that the best way of prevention is early intervention, especially for those who have been admitted to hospital for COVID-19.

It is really important to continue to monitor symptoms so that if someone is still experiencing long-term effects of COVID-19 that they know they should seek medical advice.

COVID-19 recovery advice

To minimise long-term COVID-19 effects and recover quicker, devise a realistic recovery plan with your health advisor and try the following advice:

✔️ Take it slow

It’s important not to put too much pressure on yourself after recovering from a viral illness like COVID-19, as doing too much too soon can lead to a downward spiral at both an emotional and physical level.

✔️ Increase physical activity gradually

When it comes to physical activity, if you were doing regular exercise before you caught COVID-19, then don’t put too much pressure on your body to be able to resume your usual activity. It’s best to slowly increase your physical activity (starting at the level you are able to do now and not based on what you were able to do pre-COVID-19) gradually and build your strength and stamina back up very gradually while monitoring the response to this.

✔️ Try a phased return to work

It can also be difficult if you work in a very high pressured job to return to work straight away, therefore it might be wise have a phased return to work so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

✔️ Discuss your path to recovery with your GP

Seek medical advice and discuss a realistic recovery time with your doctor. If you’re still suffering from long-term effects a path to recovery is crucial.

Last updated: 29-10-2020

You Might Also Like