Posted on Oct 10, 2023, 5 p.m.
Have you been feeling sick for weeks and can’t seem to shake it off, are you worried you have the new ick? If you fall into this group, you are not alone, but people need to remember that there is more than one condition that can linger, the common cold and flu can also persist for weeks, and they may be experiencing “long colds” not long COVID. According to a study published in The Lancet’s EClinicalMedicine, people who have tested negative for COVID-19 can still have a lingering illness following acute respiratory infections. To put it plainly, long COVID is NOT the only condition that can make you sick and stick with you for weeks or even months.
While the severity of the illness seems to be a primary determinant of the risk for prolonged symptoms, the symptoms of a “long cold” can include but are not limited to a persistent cough, stomach pain, headache, runny/stuffy nose, watery eyes, and diarrhea that extend beyond four weeks from the initial infection, based on the findings of the research team from Queens Mary University of London. Whereas SARS-CoV-2 infections also present with a higher probability of problems with taste/smell, hair loss, unusual sweating, light-headedness/dizziness, and unusual racing of the heart, as well as chest pain, fatigue, joint pain, shortness of breath, and obesity.
“Our findings shine a light not only on the impact of long COVID on people’s lives, but also other respiratory infections. A lack of awareness—or even the lack of a common term —prevents both reporting and diagnosis of these conditions,” says lead study author Giulia Vivaldi, a researcher on COVIDENCE UK from Queen Mary University of London.
This is the latest study output from COVIDENCE UK, launched in 2020, and is still in follow-up with more than 19,000 participants. This study analyzed data from 10,171 adults which included responses, questionnaires, and statistical analysis carried out to identify symptom clusters.
“As research into long Covid continues, we need to take the opportunity to investigate and consider the lasting effects of other acute respiratory infections,” said Vivaldi. “These ‘long’ infections are so difficult to diagnose and treat primarily because of a lack of diagnostic tests and there being so many possible symptoms. There have been more than 200 investigated for long Covid alone.”
“Our findings may chime with the experience of people who have struggled with prolonged symptoms after having a respiratory infection despite testing negative for COVID-19 on a nose or throat swab,” said Professor Adrian Martineau, Chief Investigator of COVIDENCE UK and Clinical Professor of Respiratory Infection and Immunity at Queen Mary University of London.
“Ongoing research into the long-term effects of COVID-19 and other acute respiratory infections is important because it can help us to get to the root of why some people experience more prolonged symptoms than others. Ultimately this could help us to identify the most appropriate form of treatment and care for affected people,” continues Martineau.
“Barts Charity swiftly supported COVIDENCE UK in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 to help inform of its risk factors and impacts. These findings highlight not only the long-term symptoms experienced by people after Covid infection, but by people after other acute respiratory infections as well. As we learn more about long Covid symptoms and their possible treatments, studies like this help to build greater awareness around other prolonged respiratory infections that may be going unrecognised,” said Victoria King, Director of Funding and Impact at Barts Charity.
It is true, not everything is SARS-CoV-2, and we need to remember this. People can have persistent health effects from other respiratory conditions and infections like colds, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, and even asthma, COPD, or allergies can produce similar symptoms. Sometimes these effects are barely noticeable and sometimes they can be severe or long-lasting, but it isn’t necessarily always a case of the new ick.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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