By Angela Ling, Clinical Director of Growth on August 2, 2022
There are a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to long COVID and post-COVID conditions. How long does it last? What are the symptoms? Who is more prone to getting it? And then a big one is simply -- can I avoid long COVID all together?
As of July 2021, long COVID can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Post-COVID conditions can include a wide range of ongoing health problems that can last weeks, months or even years. There are some people who may be more at risk for developing long COVID conditions. This includes:
People who have experienced more severe COVID-19 illness, especially those who were hospitalized or needed intensive care
People who had underlying health conditions prior to COVID-19
People who did not get a COVID-19 vaccine
People who experience multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) during or after COVID-19 illness
People who are more at risk of getting sick because of where they live or work
Because COVID is a relatively new disease, scientists don't yet have a solid understanding of what causes long COVID or how to prevent it. But researchers agree that the lingering health effects people experience after their infection are caused by inflammation throughout the body. This can lead to many side effects including fatigue, dizziness, brain fog, tremors and chest or joint pain.
Given all of this, there are ways to prevent and avoid long COVID.
1. Get Vaccinated
According to the CDC people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 and become infected may be at higher risk of developing post-COVID conditions compared to people who were vaccinated and had breakthrough infections.
2. Wear a High-Quality Mask
If you want to avoid long COVID, you must do everything you can to avoid getting COVID-19, as treatments are still experimental, and researchers are still learning about long COVID and its effects on the body. High quality masks, such as KN95 masks greatly reduce your chances of getting the virus.
3. Oral Antivirals
Oral antivirals, such as Paxlovid, may help reduce the chance of long COVID.
Vaccination and possibly early use of oral antiviral drugs are the most tangible and science-based means to prevent long-COVID," according to Richard Becker MD, professor and director, UC Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute and UC Division of Cardiovascular Health and Disease at the UC College of Medicine.
These oral antivirals available to treat COVID should be started within five days of symptom onset. These medications arrest viral replication and reduce the amount of virus in your body.
“Early diagnosis and treatment with oral antiviral medication or possibly polyclonal antibody may be particularly important for preventing long COVID. This may be the case even for infections producing mild or mild-to-moderate symptoms,” Becker said.
What if I Have Long COVID Symptoms?
With so much unknown around long COVID it can feel overwhelming when your symptoms continue for weeks and months. Remember that you are not alone. Recent data suggests that 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. who got COVID now have long COVID, that's roughly 20 million people.
If you're struggling with symptoms post-COVID, you can always reach out to your doctor for support or join support groups for others struggling with similar circumstances. There are also several ongoing studies you can apply to join to help further the research around long COVID.
The Best Way to Avoid Long COVID
Ultimately the consensus right now is that the best way to prevent post-COVID conditions is to protect yourself and others from becoming infected. For people who are eligible, getting vaccinated and staying up to date with vaccines against COVID-19 can help prevent COVID-19 infection and protect against severe illness.