(NEXSTAR) – As medical experts and patients with so-called ‘long-term COVID’ try to understand why symptoms can linger for months or even beyond a year, new study sheds light on their frequency real.
Research led by the University of Oxford, published Tuesday in PLOS Medicine, looked at the likelihood of long-term symptoms and compared it to that of the flu.
After examining the anonymized health records of 273,618 COVID-19 survivors over a 6-month period, researchers found that 37% of patients had one or more symptoms of COVID-19 beyond the 3-month mark – 1.5 times more likely than with the flu.
The study also found that some of the long-term COVID patients said they did not experience any symptoms in the first three months.
“Research of various kinds is urgently needed to understand why not everyone recovers quickly and fully from COVID-19”, said Oxford professor Paul Harrison, who led the study. “We need to identify the mechanisms underlying the various symptoms that can affect survivors. This information will be essential if we are to prevent or effectively treat the long-term health consequences of COVID-19. ‘ “
What symptoms were included
The study tracked nine different symptoms, showing the percentage of people who experienced one at some point during the entire 6-month period versus the 3-6 month period:
- Abnormal breathing (18.71% in the 1 to 180 day period; 7.94% in the 90 to 180 day period)
- Fatigue / malaise (12.82%; 5.87%)
- Chest / throat pain (12.60%; 5.71%)
- Headache (8.67%; 4.63%)
- Other pain (11.60%; 7.19%)
- Abdominal symptoms (15.58%; 8.29%)
- Myalgia (3.24%; 1.54%)
- Cognitive symptoms (7.88%; 3.95%)
- Anxiety / depression (22.82%; 15.49%)
What else did they find
The study also found a difference between patients and their likelihood of becoming long-haul after the acute phase of COVID-19.
Long-term symptoms were found more frequently in people hospitalized, according to the study, and slightly more common in women.
When it came to the symptoms that people reported, there were some common themes as well.
Breathing and cognitive difficulties were more common in men and the elderly, while young people and women were more likely to experience headaches, abdominal symptoms, and anxiety / depression.
While the study does not explain the causes of the long-lasting symptoms of COVID, researchers hope it will change expectations for recovery time and treatment after a positive test.