“But,” you splutter, “I read everywhere how the COVID numbers are going down. Nobody’s dying of COVID these days. And what about those boosters?”.
Yes, the numbers appear to be going down because boosters have made cases milder. People aren’t racing off to emergency rooms or urgent care centers. They’re not even bothering to self test. The kits are only free if you have health insurance, otherwise $25. Like face masks, test kit sales are dropping. COVID is waiting in the wings for this.
COVID symptoms are different now, more like a bad cold. Not wanting to miss work, or quarantine, patients are simply treating their symptoms and toughing it out. They may thoughtfully miss a few days of work when symptoms are severe. Then back to work.
The problem is a month later when they realize they haven’t kicked all the symptoms. They’re still coughing, feel tired, are short of breath, noticing palpitations, and can’t concentrate. Food tastes or smells differently. At the health club, they just can’t do what was easy before COVID.
Odd symptoms also: frequent urination (despite a normal urinalysis); weakness of an arm or a leg, like a stroke; new migraines; electric shock sensations down their arms and legs.
These “odd symptoms” are especially challenging to both the patient and the doctors she visits because unless she relates everything chronologically: excellent health in the past, followed by “this bad cold I had”, and then weeks later fatigue or electric shocks, neither she nor the five or six specialists she will visit will make the connection as manifestations of long COVID. The problem? No reliable diagnostic tests for long COVID.
Written up in the Washington Post last week, a new study reported that 1 person out of 20 never really recovered from their COVID infection, and 42 percent reported only partial recovery as long as 15 months after infection.
Even though the latest accumulated data estimates that up to 20 million Americans are currently suffering from long COVID symptoms, the study also acknowledges how they’re struggling against unsympathetic healthcare providers (“your tests are normal; we can’t find anything wrong with you”), unsympathetic disability insurance companies (“our physicians reviewed your case; you should be able to go back to work”), employers, and even family members. Making matters worse, the majority of long term COVID patients are female who have always faced an uphill battle in the healthcare system anyway.
Much of the data about American victims of long COVID is extrapolated from a very detailed study out of the UK published in July of 2022. Because of the National Health System, they keep meticulous records on everyone. It is through this study that the “115 manifestations of long COVID” first came to light.
What was jarring with this study was the revelation that mild cases of COVID could trigger serious and debilitating long haul symptoms. The greatest risks were among women, elderly, and anyone with chronic illnesses. Being vaccinated afforded some protection against long COVID, but not as much as hoped. You could still get a mild case, which could lead to long COVID.
So now what?
- Consider COVID “not gone”, especially if you are female, especially if you have any chronic illnesses.
- Prepare for a Fall-Winter surge at least by masking in crowded places (planes, shopping, concerts).
- Consider every ‘bad cold’ to be COVID in disguise; have a fresh test kit in the house; call for Paxlovid, if positive.
- Get both a flu shot and a COVID booster. The flu virus this year is predicted to be a doozy.
- Continue (or restart) your immune support program of Vitamin C – 1,000 mg/day; Vitamin D – 5,000 IU/day; Zinc – 30-50 mg/day; any good mushroom blend (Five Defenders, Mycotaki, etc.). Call our apothecary or visit our online site, and this can be mailed to you.
- If COVID numbers start to increase, call and schedule an Immune Boost Infusion.
- If you know someone with long haul COVID and they’re not getting help, have them schedule with one of our practitioners.
David Edelberg, MD