These are the 12 key symptoms of Long COVID: US study

American scientists have identified a dozen symptoms most often associated with Long COVID.

Researchers representing hospitals and medical schools across the US scrutinised symptom data from nearly 10,000 participants of the US National Institutes of Health’s RECOVER initiative.

From 37 COVID symptoms identified as occurring within this group, the study team honed these to a final dozen characteristics that most commonly persisted for six months after infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

They include:

  • Post-exertional malaise (debilitating fatigue exacerbated by activity)
  • Fatigue
  • Brain Fog
  • Dizziness
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Palpitations
  • Changes in sexual desire or capacity
  • Loss or change of taste and smell
  • Thirst
  • Chronic cough
  • Chest Pain
  • Abnormal movements

While malaise, fatigue and brain fog are characteristics commonly found among most people with long COVID, other less-known symptoms like thirst and loss of taste and smell were found to be important markers of the problem.

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The 12 symptoms form part of a scoring system proposed by the researchers that can be used by clinicians to diagnose long COVID in a patient, and aid management of the issue among patients.

“This study is an important step toward defining long COVID beyond any one individual symptom [and] this definition—which may evolve over time—will serve as a critical foundation for scientific discovery and treatment design,” says Dr Leora Horwitz, director of the Center for Healthcare Innovation and Delivery Science at NYU Langone.

The researchers also accept that a person with symptoms that have been excluded from this dozen may still have long COVID.

“All patients suffering from long COVID deserve the attention and respect of the medical field, as well as care and treatment driven by their experiences. As treatments are developed, it will be important to consider the complete symptom profile,” says Dr David Goff, director of the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in the US.

The study also homed in on markers that may increase the likelihood of long COVID occurring.

Repeat infection, disease caused by a pre-Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant, and absence of vaccination were found to increase the frequency and severity of long COVID.

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