Scientists from Queen Mary University of London have discovered that individuals might experience lingering symptoms for several weeks or more after acute respiratory infections that test negative for Covid-19, a phenomenon they’re calling long colds. These symptoms, which can persist for more than four weeks after the initial infection, include coughing, stomach pain, and diarrhea. Although the severity of the illness appears to be a significant factor in the risk of prolonged symptoms, researchers are still investigating why some people suffer from these symptoms while others do not.
Published in The Lancet’s EClinicalMedicine, the study suggests that there might be enduring health consequences following non-Covid acute respiratory infections such as colds, flu, or pneumonia, which are currently not widely recognized. However, it’s important to note that there isn’t yet evidence indicating that these symptoms are as severe or long-lasting as those associated with long Covid.
Giulia Vivaldi, the lead author of the study, emphasized the need for further research into both long Covid and other respiratory infections. Vivaldi pointed out the challenge in diagnosing and treating these ‘long’ infections due to the lack of diagnostic tests and the multitude of possible symptoms. Over 200 symptoms have been investigated for long Covid alone, further complicating the process.
The research compared the prevalence and severity of long-term symptoms in individuals recovering from Covid-19 with those recovering from another acute respiratory infection that tested negative for Covid. The study, conducted as part of COVIDENCE UK, a national study of Covid-19 led by Queen Mary University of London, analyzed data from over 10,000 UK adults. The participants’ responses were collected through questionnaires, and statistical analysis was performed to identify patterns of symptoms.
The findings indicated that individuals recovering from Covid-19 were more likely to experience light-headedness, dizziness, and issues related to taste and smell compared to those with non-Covid respiratory infections. Despite being a recognized condition, there have been limited studies comparing the long-term symptoms following SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection with those of other respiratory infections.
Professor Adrian Martineau, Chief Investigator of COVIDENCE UK, stressed the importance of ongoing research into the long-term effects of both Covid-19 and other acute respiratory infections. Understanding why some people experience prolonged symptoms could aid in identifying suitable treatments and care for affected individuals.
Victoria King, representing Barts Charity, which funded the research, highlighted the significance of the findings. She emphasized that the study not only sheds light on the long-term symptoms experienced after Covid infection but also raises awareness about similar symptoms following other acute respiratory infections. As our knowledge of long Covid symptoms and potential treatments expands, studies like this contribute to greater awareness of other extended respiratory infections that might be overlooked.