While the United States continues to grapple with surges in COVID-19 cases, a quieter yet equally menacing issue is gaining attention: Long COVID. This refers to symptoms that continue for weeks or months after the acute phase of a COVID-19 infection has resolved. The problem is multi-faceted and can have profound repercussions on one’s quality of life. In this article, we’ll explore seven compelling reasons why Long COVID is a topic of concern and outline five strategies to prevent contracting COVID-19, thereby reducing your risk of developing Long COVID.
Seven Critical Reasons to Discuss Long COVID
1. Persistent Symptoms
Long COVID symptoms are not merely remnants of the infection; they persist and sometimes intensify, affecting physical health, mental well-being, and the ability to work. Symptoms can range from fatigue and brain fog to more severe manifestations like heart complications.
2. Healthcare Burden
The rise in Long COVID cases adds another layer of complexity to an already strained healthcare system. Treatment often involves multi-disciplinary care, including specialists in neurology, cardiology, and mental health, to name a few.
3. Economic Impact
Long COVID has economic repercussions, both for individuals and society at large. Patients may require extended time off work or even face job loss, further exacerbating financial strains that many American families are experiencing due to the pandemic.
4. Mental Health Decline
The psychological impact of enduring long-term symptoms cannot be underestimated. Anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions are often reported among Long COVID patients, contributing to a vicious cycle that makes recovery even more challenging.
5. Varied Affect Across Ages and Demographics
Contrary to early beliefs that COVID-19 primarily impacts older adults, Long COVID is affecting people of all age groups, including children. The wide demographic reach of the condition makes it a concern for every American.
6. Underreported and Misdiagnosed
The lack of a standardized definition and diagnostic criteria for Long COVID means that many cases may go unreported or misdiagnosed. This complicates efforts to understand the scale of the problem and to devise effective treatments.
7. Insufficient Research and Treatment Options
Though research is ongoing, there are still gaps in our understanding of Long COVID. Without substantial studies, treatment options remain limited and are often tailored to alleviate symptoms rather than address the underlying condition.
Five Strategies to Minimize Your Risk of Long COVID
Given the debilitating nature and unpredictable course of Long COVID, prevention remains the best course of action. Here are five ways to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 and, consequently, Long COVID.
1. Get Fully Vaccinated
The vaccines authorized for emergency use in the USA have proven highly effective in preventing severe COVID-19 illness, reducing your risk of developing long-term symptoms.
2. Follow Public Health Guidelines
Adhering to CDC recommendations such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand hygiene can substantially minimize your exposure to the virus.
3. Regular Testing
Frequent COVID-19 testing can help identify infections early, allowing for prompt treatment and reducing the risk of severe illness that can lead to Long COVID.
4. Exercise Caution in High-Risk Environments
Limit time spent in crowded or poorly ventilated areas where the virus can spread easily. Opt for outdoor gatherings when possible and exercise caution in indoor spaces.
5. Boost Your Immunity
A strong immune system can better fight off infections. Maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get sufficient sleep to bolster your body’s natural defenses.
Long COVID presents an urgent yet often overlooked healthcare crisis that requires immediate attention. As we collectively strive to overcome the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic, understanding and tackling the complexities of Long COVID remain crucial for societal well-being.
Awareness is the first step toward solution. Let’s ensure we’re educated and vigilant in the fight against COVID-19 and its long-term repercussions, namely Long COVID.
Lawrence Akinsanmi, M.D., Ph.D., is a seasoned Clinical Development professional with more than two decades of experience in drugs, biologics, cellulagenetics, and biomarkers. I am currently the Chief Medical Officer at Actinobac Biomed Inc. I previously served as the Head of Clinical Sciences & Global Clinical Development (Oncology) at Hutchison Medipharma Inc (HengRui USA Inc). I have also served as Head, Early Development & Global Lead, Experimental Medicine at Bayer HealthCare Corporation. I’m a member of American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and American Society of Hematology.
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