The Latest On Long Covid From Dr Philippa Kaye

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March 15 is International Long Covid Awareness Day so we asked Dr Philippa Kaye to describe the symptoms of long Covid and explain the latest research to help those living with this often debilitating condition.

Dr Philippa Kaye

Dr Philippa Kaye

Sonal is now 52 and had a very difficult time during the pandemic. Her mother-in-law, who lived with her, her husband and children, caught Covid and passed away during lockdown.

In fact the whole family caught coronavirus during the first lockdown. Although her mother-in-law became very unwell, the other family members seemed to have a mild version and got better within a few days.

Sonal herself describes three to four days of feeling unwell with aches, pains and fatigue, as well as a total loss of taste and smell. While her husband and children got better and felt back to normal, although she feels she wasn’t too unwell in herself at the time, Sonal reports that almost two years on, she is still having symptoms.

It sounds as if Sonal has long Covid. Although most people who develop a Covid infection are fully recovered by about 12 weeks, more than 2 million adults in the UK have long Covid, or symptoms lasting over 12 weeks. It seems to occur in about 1 in 5 patients who have Covid, but in most people, symptoms do continue to improve slowly.

Long Covid can affect any and every organ system of the body. A study by University College London identified over 200 symptoms related to long Covid.

Dr Philippa Kaye explains the symptoms of long Covid

The most common symptom is fatigue, not relieved by rest; brain fog or difficulties with memory and concentration; and post-exertional malaise. This is when symptoms worsen after exertion, be that physical with exercise or mental with work or stress. Other symptoms include persistent or recurrent fever, weakness, headaches, mood changes, palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, joint aches and pains, diarrhoea, skin rashes and more. You may also notice that symptoms worsen when you have another infection such as a cold.

Although the list of symptoms is long, people have differing numbers of symptoms and are also impacted to varying degrees.

Your GP can order tests if needed

If you think you are suffering with long Covid, then please see your GP. Depending on the symptoms you describe and answers to the questions they ask you, you may be offered an examination and a blood pressure check. The GP may also organise investigations such as blood tests and a chest X-ray. It is important to rule out other causes of non-specific symptoms such as fatigue as it could be due to another condition such as hypothyroidism (a condition where there are low levels of thyroid hormone) which would need to be treated. They may also be able to refer you to a specialist long Covid clinic.

Fatigue and long Covid

Although doctors and scientists have learned a huge amount about Covid in the last few years and have created vaccines, there is still a lot to learn, in particular about long Covid. Research needs to be done to identify causes and appropriate treatments. Currently there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of long Covid.

Fatigue is often a main symptom, and is different to the tiredness you may feel at the end of a long working week. Here the fatigue is overwhelming, not relieved by rest and has a real impact on your life.

Fatigue management techniques such as pacing can be helpful in using the energy that you do have to allow you to function. This may involve dividing jobs into small stages and resting in between, prioritising jobs and tasks and planning in recovery time.

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate for Covid?

Needle and covid vaccine for Dr Philippa Kaye article on long covid

Illustration: Shutterstock / Numstocker

At the time of writing (March 2024) this is the current, correct information.

Certain groups will be offered a Spring Covid vaccine in 2024.

  • People 75 and older (including those who will be 75 up to June 30, 2024)
  • People who are residents in care homes for older adults
  • People aged 6 months or over with suppressed immune systems

It is not yet known if further Covid vaccination boosters will be offered.

Advice given in this article and on the My Weekly website and magazines is not meant to replace personalised medical advice from your doctor. If you have any health concerns please see your doctor.

Article written on April 13, 2023; article reviewed and updated on March 13, 2024

Each week we’ll ask Dr Philippa Kaye to talk about a prominent health issue, so look out for more articles in our health and wellbeing section in coming weeks. Read her advice on Endometriosis now.