From extreme fatigue to weight loss, numbness, breathing difficulties and chest pain, some people’s covid-19 symptoms are proving very hard to shake
24 June 2020
WITHIN 24 hours of asking an online covid-19 support group if anyone had been experiencing prolonged or unusual symptoms, I had been messaged by 140 people. The list was mind-boggling and deeply upsetting. “I feel like I’m in the middle of a waking nightmare,” said Zoe Wall, who was previously fit and healthy. Two months after developing covid-19-like symptoms, she was still experiencing chest pains and “fatigue beyond description”.
Harry’s symptoms started with a terrible headache and itchy body, followed by shortness of breath. He was still experiencing breathing difficulties, chest pain, numbness in his arm and bloating 10 weeks later. Jenn had had no sense of smell or taste since testing positive for covid-19 on 31 March. Abbi had minimal respiratory symptoms, but very bad gastric ones and lost 19 kilograms in two months. Others reported fatigue, headaches, tingling fingertips and brain fog.
As the months tick by since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and we learn more about covid-19, it is becoming increasingly evident that even mild cases can have distressing and long-lasting effects. “There’s clearly something going on here. It is not their imagination or hypochondria. It doesn’t even seem to be linked to how severely they had the disease, as far as I can see,” says Danny Altmann, an immunologist at Imperial College London. All this means we need to rethink how we diagnose and treat covid-19. The long list of symptoms also seems to suggest there might even be several subtypes of the disease, which could help us predict which cases will become serious.
When the pandemic was announced in early March, …