Long COVID is now recognized as a post-viral syndrome of chronic debilitating symptoms that can last for months. Similar post-viral syndromes that have been observed follow other infections such as influenza, pneumonia, Epstein-Barr virus, and HIV. New data from a recent study by Kings College London of 4 million individuals in the United Kingdom indicates that:
- It’s relatively common: one in 10 COVID patients had symptoms that were still present one month later and between 1.5-2 percent still had symptoms after three months.
- Symptoms can be varied: Symptoms of long COVID include excessive fatigue/exhaustion, breathlessness, headache, insomnia, muscle fatigue/pains, chest pain, persistent cough, a loss of taste and smell, intermittent fevers, skin rashes and worsening of symptoms post-exercise.
- Early disease patterns predict long COVID: Having a persistent cough, hoarse voice, headache, diarrhea, loss of appetite and shortness of breath in the first week of acute COVID meant someone was two to three times more likely to get longer-term symptoms.
- There are health-related risk factors for long COVID: The most common risk factors associated with persistent COVID symptoms include high blood pressure, obesity, and mental health conditions.
- It affects working age individuals, women more than men: Long COVID appears to be twice as common in women compared to men, and the median age of those experiencing long-term symptoms is 45.
A functional medicine approach is best suited to reduce risk factors, address symptoms using both natural and pharmaceutical interventions, support whole body immune resilience, and improve cellular energy function in the context of long-term post-viral syndromes.