TBC Explainer: Why do we experience post-recovery symptoms?

The Bridge Chronicle understands Covid-long haul and why do we experience lasting symptoms.
Various post-Covid recovery symptoms experienced by people
Various post-Covid recovery symptoms experienced by peopleImage: The Bridge Chronicle

By now, we have realised the Covid affects everyone differently. Even the reaction to the vaccine cannot possibly estimate who severely one's body may react to the vaccine. However, if there is one certainty, it is that post-Covid-19 symptoms have a lasting effect on people's bodies.

Even during the first wave, people complained of losing the sense of taste and smell even after recovery from Covid-19. In this wave, there are complaints of breathing difficulties and headaches, long after people have recovered, sometimes lasting up to six months. Even for people with mild symptoms, there seems to be a prevalence of lasting these symptoms.

According to a study published in Lancet: Infectious Diseases recovered patients faced an increased risk of breathing difficulties and blood clots even if there was no prior history of the infection. Additionally, post-recovery 31 per cent of patients were found to have begun treatments for migraines, and medication to widen their airways for ease of breathing.

However, luckily, the chances of serious complications such as stroke, encephalitis, or psychosis were relatively lower. And did not require hospitalisation.

Anton Pottegård, professor of pharmacology at the University of Southern Denmark said, “Our research provided evidence for some long-term effects that did not require hospitalization or the use of new medicines, which we found reflected in higher use of primary health-care services after infection.” “This highlights the need to ensure clinicians have the resources and support to manage any potential long-term conditions,” added Pottegård, the co-author of the study.

For the purpose of the study, The Lancet analyzed the health of almost 90,000 individuals from Denmark; including both recovered patients and people who never had a Covid19 infection. The study was aimed at assessing a person's vulnerability to post-covid risks after recovery. The focus was on people with mild infections, to understand the possible complications after recovery.

This prolonged experience of Covid like symptoms is known as Covid long haul or long covid. However, much is not known about the reason behind the long covid. Healthline in an article suggested that the reason behind these effects could be the long-term changes in gene expression. It could also be because the spike protein when infecting the person, also affects healthy cells.

Various post-Covid recovery symptoms experienced by people
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Other theories also suggest inflammation of the immune system, stressed immune system could be reasons for the long haul. Another reason for lasting symptoms could also be due to organ damage caused by COVID-19. This takes us back to the fact, that the oxygen level often decreases in the body when infected by Covid-19. As explained by The Bridge Chronicle earlier, oxygen is the main food for our organs and tissues. So when post-Covid symptoms are considered, insufficient oxygen causing organ damage could be another reason.

Does having a long covid make you infectious?

According to the studies, once the body is infected with the virus, there is a three month period of virus shedding but it is not necessary that the virus will infect other people. Long COVID is also another completely different condition where longer-than-normal COVID-19 infection remains active in a person's body.

Various post-Covid recovery symptoms experienced by people
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Considering the current situation, when hospitals are choking and there aren't enough supplies of vaccines available. The findings of the study become important, for medical practitioners to better prepare for what's to come. Even as we talk about the study, millions are left to succumb on the streets, while the privileged are getting vaccination shots at their doorsteps and using connections to get oxygen beds.

However, the study also highlights that the severity and the prelevance of these symptoms may vary since research suggests that different strains of the virus exist. These different strains, are shown to cause different symptoms and post-recovery symptoms. The infection rate and survival rate also differs from country to country.

The suggestions and findings of the study reflect well with the recent letter signed by more than Indian 900 scientists and medical health experts. The suggestions expressed in the letter sought for Covid-19 related data to be "systematically collected and released in a timely manner to the scientific community". This was in response to the havoc that the virus has managed to create, showing utter inability on the healthcare system to provide and care for the most affected. The appeal suggests that transparency of information — recoveries, case count, death rate, testing, and other metrics — is key to formulating a scientific response to the crisis and better responding to the mounting caseload.

Patients in India to are experiencing many of the above mentioned post-covid symptoms. Doctors and medical practitioners have come across patients who have complained of experiencing post-Covid symptoms like fatigue, weakness, brain fog, anxiety, stress, and breathlessness. “Any sign of breathlessness or confusion should not be taken lightly, just because you have tested negative,” says Dr Ajit Singh Chawla, a Ludhiana-based physician, and former district epidemiologist, while talking to Indian Express. He adds, “special care needs to be taken of the lungs as their involvement in Covid19 is the maximum. Hence, one must continue to monitor their oxygen levels.”

Whether a person experiences Covid long haul or doesn't however is subjective and it is advisable to consult a doctor in such cases.

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