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Long-term symptoms after COVID-19
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What are long-term effects?
Non-specific symptoms such as fatigue are also seen after other viral infections. For most people, COVID-19 is a mild and transient disease, but some people experience symptoms after the acute phase. People who are admitted to hospital will more often have long-term problems and increased use of healthcare services.
Among people with COVID-19 who were not admitted to hospital and who developed problems, the most commonly reported symptoms 6 months after disease are fatigue/ exhaustion, shortness of breath and impaired/altered sense of taste and smell.
Among people with COVID-19 who were admitted to hospital, the most commonly reported symptoms 6 months after disease are shortness of breath, fatigue/ exhaustion, anxiety and difficulty sleeping, They have more frequent and more symptoms than those who are not admitted to hospital. Some people experience negative changes in their quality of life.
For most people, the symptoms will improve over time, but the frequency and duration of these symptoms are still uncertain.
Risk factors for long-term symptoms
Women appear to be more prone to long-term symptoms than men, regardless of whether they have been admitted to hospital or not.
In addition, the severity of COVID-19, more symptoms when the disease is diagnosed, and other underlying conditions, may give a greater risk of symptoms after 6 months.
Children appear to be less affected by COVID-19 than adults and have long-term symptoms to a lesser degree.
Knowledge about long-term health consequences
It is already known that people who are treated for severe infectious diseases in intensive care units may struggle with long-term disability after discharge from hospital.
Among COVID-19 patients who have been critically ill in intensive care, many experience that health consequences can affect their quality of life. General pain is reported as the most troublesome symptom, but some may find that they are less mobile, have more anxiety and depression, and feel exhausted.
Norwegian registry studies suggest that severe long-term health consequences after a mild to moderate COVID-19 disease course are uncommon. This applies for both children and adults, but some experience problems that require follow-up from a family doctor. There is a need for larger studies with good comparison groups to gain more reliable knowledge about long-term effects after COVID-19.
Currently, there are no established criteria for when a doctor shall use a diagnosis linked to long-term health consequences should be used, or what this entails (how long the symptoms should last, which symptoms are included, etc.). "Long COVID" is a commonly used term, but is not used here since there is no specific definition.
There is no specific treatment. Any treatment depends on which symptoms or problems are present.
The Norwegian Directorate of Health recommends that anyone who has had a mild or moderate disease course should contact their family doctor if, after four weeks, they are still experiencing symptoms that make it difficult to participate in everyday life. The doctor will assess their need for rehabilitation.