Medical Matters: What exactly is Long Covid?

written by Scally McDaid Roarty February 1, 2022

This week Dr Ciarán Roarty of Scally McDaid Roarty Medical Practice Letterkenny talks about long Covid. 

The term has only really been in use for about a year and there is no absolute consensus on what exactly it is. It is now thought however, that up to 10% of people who contract Covid will go on to have long term symptoms from their Covid infection. 

It is generally accepted that long Covid refers to symptoms persisting for four weeks or more, though there is a big variation in the duration and severity of peoples’ symptoms.

Many people with long Covid report that it impacts their day-to-day activities, and it has been suggested that up to one in three people with long Covid have symptoms for up to a year.

It is a complex multi-system illness and symptoms can be wide-ranging. They can appear within weeks to months from the original Covid infection and may even disappear for periods of time. 

How will I know if I have it?

If you are 4 weeks post your Covid infection and you continue to experience new or varying symptoms then you might have it. Symptoms are outlined below but a lot of them are very common. On their own and it doesn’t automatically mean you have long Covid. 

  • Pain in your chest
  • Racing heart 
  • Itchy patches on your skin
  • A burning sensation
  • Joint ache
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Difficulty concentrating on tasks
  • Persistent fever  

How is it diagnosed?

The above symptoms could be related to lots of other conditions so your doctor will make sure you don’t have these by examining you or ordering tests first. 

How is it treated?

Treatment really depends on the symptoms that you have, as presentation of the condition can be so variable.   You may be referred for specialist review or to a post covid clinic.

Your doctor will give you advice on how to manage your palpitations (e.g. by drinking more water, quitting smoking, eating well and getting a good night’s sleep as well as identifying and avoiding things that cause you stress) as well as your fatigue and breathlessness if you have it. They may give you advice on how to manage a persistent cough as well as other symptoms such as an ongoing headache.

It may be necessary for your GP to prescribe medication for you such as medicines to help with your heart and lungs and even medication to help with your mental health, if it is required.

Physiotherapists often have a very useful role in managing long Covid and treating the symptoms that it brings. You should also let your doctor know if your symptoms are making you feel anxious or depressed as they will assess your mental health and point you in the right direction to receive further supports.  

The above information is intended as advice only and should you have any concerns please contact your own Doctor.

Dr Ciarán Roarty MB, BCh BAO MICGP DRCOG Grad. Cert. Obst. Ultrasound is a full-time GP at Scally McDaid Roarty Medical Practice, Scally Place, Letterkenny, Tel 0749164111




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