Covid-19 is one thing we have grown accustomed to hearing. What is not so common is the term “long covid”. Long covid is a situation whereby a person infected with the coronavirus exhibits symptoms for an extended period of time, usually more than the normal time it takes for one to recover. There are certified clinics where you can get a private covid test, but how can you tell if you are contagious if you have long covid? Here, we will be explaining all you need to know about long covid.
Are people with long covid contagious?
Just like people with covid-19, anyone with long covid is only contagious for the first five days after symptoms begin to manifest. Even though the genetic material of the virus may still be detected in nose, throat and stool samples of people after weeks of infection, the virus is not necessarily active and thus cannot be transmitted.
Various studies and experiments have been carried out using samples from infected people’s noses and throats to see if the virus can replicate itself. Most of the viral samples could not replicate themselves after nine days, even though the patient still had high viral loads. This means that patients are very contagious during the first after infection or after developing symptoms and not infectious afterwards.
Furthermore, it also showed that the symptoms experienced during long covid were due to the patient’s body response to the virus even after it became inactive.
Can children develop long covid?
Yes, children can develop long covid, even though it is less common in children than in adults. There have been reports of children still experiencing symptoms of covid-19 seven to eight months after infection. The symptoms they experience are just like the normal symptoms, and they include shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue and heart palpitations. There have also been reports of more than one person having long covid in a family. This shows that other factors like genetic connection and environmental factors, can play a role in the long covid.
Why does long covid cause fluctuating symptoms?
Different people who have long covid, have reported having fluctuating symptoms. For some people, the symptoms come in waves, being high at some point and low at some other point. For some others, the symptoms moved from one part of their body to another. In one survey conducted, about 89% of people who had long covid reported fluctuations in their symptoms, saying it also increased in intensity. Another 70% of people who had long covid said they experienced new symptoms at different times.
The reasons and underlying mechanism of fluctuations of long covid symptoms are still under investigation, however, they may likely be as a result of autoimmune or inflammatory manifestations. When the immune system mistakes a molecule or an antigen of your own tissue and attacks it, it gives rise to what is known as an autoimmune disease. If such antigen is present at different parts of the body, it could lead to the disease affecting different parts of the body at the same time.
Is long covid similar to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)?
To an extent, long covid overlaps with CFS, and this has been the cause for a heated medical debate. For starters, both illnesses are caused by viruses and share similar symptoms. Also, certain people who have long covid experience muscle weakness, muscle pain and fever.
There is a difference that exists between the two, and it is due to CFS being triggered in some cases by ongoing inflammation or reduced supply of oxygen due to lung or heart damage. The cause of the trigger, however, is what is not known. For some people, exercise is a good remedy, and for others, it is not. This is why it is important to listen to your body and rest when signs of fatigues set in. This is called pacing.
Will the sense of smell and taste return?
Loss of sense of taste and smell is one of the common features of covid-19, and it affects up to 60% of those infected. This symptom can last up to a month or more in patients. While some may have a total loss of these senses, some others have a partial loss of smell or a distorted sense of smell known as parosmia.
The good news with parosmia is that it is a sign that your senses are gradually coming back, and that your body is working towards repairing any damage caused by the virus. A toolkit has been developed by fifth sense, and it is meant to help people rebuild their sense of smell through smell exercises. These smell exercises include regularly choosing a range of smell that the patient is familiar with in order to recognise changes and to use other senses as support.
Are people with M.E more susceptible to long covid?
There is no significant claim or result to back up this theory. However, people with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) should try as much as they can to protect themselves from the coronavirus. People with ME already have a provoked immune system, so any further infection with coronavirus or any other infection will cause a relapse in their condition.
If an infection triggers a relapse in ME, it will most likely be an exacerbation of existing ME symptoms and not necessarily new symptoms. However, it is best to stay safe.
Can people with long covid get the vaccine?
The existing vaccine for covid-19, have not yet been tested on people who have covid-19, let alone on those who are still experiencing symptoms. However, there is no reason why anyone who has long covid should not get the vaccine, as it will not make you any worse. The vaccine does not contain the virus responsible for covid-19, but just the antigen. On that note, the vaccine is safe for anyone who has long covid.