These 12 Symptoms Can Probably Reveal If You Have Long Covid
We might finally have a definition of what Long Covid really is.
Long Covid, also known as Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), has remained a mystery since it was first recognized. The motley crew of symptoms ranging from neurological to cardiovascular has made it hard to treat the condition. Now, scientists have locked down 12 symptoms most closely aligned with long Covid in a study published this month in the medical journal JAMA. The work was done through the National Institutes of Health’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) initiative.
“This study is an important step toward defining long COVID beyond any one individual symptom,” Leora Horwitz, co-principal investigator for the RECOVER Clinical Science Core, said in a press release. “This approach — which may evolve over time — will serve as a foundation for scientific discovery and treatment design.”
Over the course of two years, NIH’s RECOVER initiative collected survey data from nearly 10,000 adults across 33 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico, and 85 hospitals, health centers, and community organizations. This survey data included 8,646 people who had Covid-19 and 1,118 who did not.
The researchers identified 12 symptoms that most strongly correlated with someone having long Covid. They assigned each symptom a certain number of points, with a score of 12 or more needed to meet the study’s definition of the syndrome:
- Loss of smell or taste – 8 points
- Feeling tired (or malaise) after physical or mental activity – 7 points
- Chronic cough – 4 points
- Brain fog – 3 points
- Thirst – 3 points
- Heart palpitations – 2 points
- Chest pain – 2 points
- Fatigue – 1 point
- Dizziness – 1 point
- Gastrointestinal issues – 1 point
- Changes in sexual desire – 1 point
- Abnormal movements – 1 point
Bear in mind this scorecard is limited, and not yet ready for clinical use. Horwitz told CNN these symptoms aren’t necessarily the most common or severe but are “much more likely to be found in people who have had Covid than who haven’t.”
Also, a big case for vaccination: The study found that people who have never been vaccinated or who had Covid-19 before the Omicron strain emerged in 2021 were more likely to have long Covid and more severe cases of it. Reinfections were also linked to higher long Covid frequency and severity compared to those who only had the infection once.
The researchers say the new framework is the first step to diagnosing, monitoring, and potentially finding effective treatments for long Covid. But there’s still much to learn about this mysterious syndrome, such as how it manifests in children and pregnant individuals, as well as its underlying biological mechanisms at play.