‘Post-COVID recovery may take longer than expected’

A patient should speak to doctor using tele-medicine option/over a call so that post-COVID recovery is assessed regularly and properly. The doctor will also be able to indicate if a patient needs to undergo any tests, make any lifestyle changes or recalibrate medication. So a patient shouldn’t miss on doctor appointments, eat healthy, take prescribed medication, and stay positive.

Dr Rahul Pandit

It was in December 2019 that the first human cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19, subsequently named SARS-CoV-2, were first reported by officials in Wuhan City, China. As we come close to completing a year since the outbreak of COVID19, let’s understand the repercussions of this infection that has impacted the lives of 9.74 million Indians over the past 12 months and its impact, that may extend to not just a few weeks or months, but a year or more. This phenomenon is called ‘Long COVID’, which has had debilitating effect on patient’s lives.

Across the globe so far, the focus has been on saving and enriching lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the infection’s long term consequences are now gaining attention, and people continue to reel under its incapacitating impact. While more research is required to understand why certain patients bear the brunt of ‘Long COVID’, a more crucial question that needs to be answered is ‘is complete recovery on the horizon?’

While there is no textbook definition of ‘Long COVID’, patients who experience post-COVID symptoms lasting over six months are known to be suffering from this condition. These patients are not just those who have had lengthy stay in the Intensive Care Unit, but also those who have had mild symptoms and may or may not have needed hospitalization. Most common symptoms of ‘Long COVID’ include fatigue, breathlessness on least amount of exertion, persistent cough, muscular & joint pain, drop/ inaccuracy in hearing and sight, persistent loss of smell and taste. Many patients with ‘Long COVID’ are also noted to have mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.

The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a study (on 143 patients) conducted by the Fondazione Policlinico Universitario Agostino Gemelli IRCCS in Rome, Italy, which assessed post-COVID patients who came into the hospital’s OPD. Analysis revealed that of the patients who had recovered from COVID-19, 87.4% reported at least one symptom, nearly 2-3 months post recovery.

‘Will there be 100% recovery?’ is a question asked by many, but there is no clear answer for this question. Studies are being conducted worldwide to understand the long-term impact of COVID19, however there are increasing concerns that even after making complete recovery, a section of patients may face lifelong implication.

Most of the symptoms of Long COVID fortunately need symptomatic care, and rehabilitation forms an important aspect of care. The respiratory rehab and cardiac rehab programs aimed at gradually building the exercise capacity back, and also allowing time for gradual improvement are important. Mental health assessment and stability forms a large aspect of recovery and need a lot of attention.

To conclude, it is important to remember that you must speak to your doctor (using tele-medicine option/ over a call) periodically so they can assess you post-COVID recovery. Your doctor will also be able to indicate if you need to undergo any tests, make any lifestyle changes or recalibrate medication. So don’t miss on your doctor appointments, eat healthy, take prescribed medication, and stay positive.

(The author is Director-Critical Care, Fortis Hospital, Mulund)

(Featured Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

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