YOUR first symptoms can give an indication of whether you’ll be plagued with long Covid, doctors have found.
It’s another step toward discovering which patients are most at risk of becoming “long haulers”.
Scientists led by the University of Birmingham reviewed data from various studies on long Covid so far.
Experts said that people with five or more symptoms in their first week of coronavirus infection were more likely to have long Covid in the months after, irrespective of age or gender.
The most common symptoms of coronavirus infection are:
- Chills or shivers
- Persistent cough
- Loss or change of smell/taste
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Muscle pains
- Hoarse voice
- Skipping meals/loss of appetite
- Abdominal pains
- Runny nose
- Skin rash
- Changes in the mouth or tongue, such as ulcers
- Red and sore fingers or toes
The most common syptoms indicative of long Covid were not looked at by the analysis.
But one study included found shortness of breath and chest pain were highly linked to the condition.
Those who are older, female, admitted to hospital or have underlying health conditions, particularly asthma, also appear to be at greater risk.
People infected with the coronavirus can get anything from zero to several symptoms.
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Many research teams categorise five or more symptoms during coronavirus illness as a “severe case”.
Therefore, this study suggests that severity of infection is an indicator for long Covid.
However, it has been warned countless times that people with a more mild illness – with relatively few or no symptoms – are just as at risk.
Some experts have suggested that long Covid may be worse in patients who had mild or no symptoms, than in people who went to hospital.
Dr Olalekan Lee Aiyegbusi, lead author of the study, said: “There is evidence that the impact of acute Covid-19 on patients, regardless of severity, extends beyond hospitalisation in the most severe cases, to ongoing impaired quality of life, mental health and employment issues.”
The ONS have estimated that one in seven people have some symptoms 12 weeks after a positive test result.
The review published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine also highlighted the main symptoms.
The top ten were fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle pain, cough, headache, joint pain, chest pain, altered smell, diarrhoea and altered taste.
It chimes with other similar research, including a paper published yesterday that listed more than 200 symptoms in long haulers.
Birmingham researchers identified two main symptom clusters of long Covid. The first is those comprising exclusively of fatigue, headache and upper respiratory complaints.
The second id those with multi-system complaints including ongoing fever and gastroenterological (stomach and digestive) symptoms.
Previously it’s been suggested long Covid is a set of four different syndromes.
Dr Shamil Haroon, co-principal investigator study, said: “Neither the biological or immunological mechanisms of long Covid, nor the rationale for why certain people are more susceptible to these effects, are yet clear.”
She said this limits treatment options.
The researchers suggest that in the longer term, patients with long COVID may have a similar trajectory to that of patients who had SARS or MERS – other human coronaviruses.
They pointed to analysis showing that six months after hospital discharge, approximately 25 per cent of patients hospitalised with SARS and MERS had reduced lung function and exercise capacity.
The study’s co-principal investigator Melanie Calvert said: “There is an urgent need for better, more integrated care models to support and manage patients with long COVID to improve clinical outcomes.”