Some people have symptoms that last weeks or months after COVID-19 passes.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people wondered if it was “just the flu” or something similar. There are many reasons this isn’t true, and one of those reasons is the emerging evidence of long-term symptoms of COVID-19.
The flu may come and go. Even if it knocks you out and keeps you in bed for a few days, once it’s gone, it’s usually gone. This does not appear to be the case with COVID-19. Many patients are reporting lingering symptoms from coronavirus infection, even after they’ve tested negative and are no longer contagious.
Some of the long-term symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Stiffness and inflammation
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Shortness of breath
What Is Dysautonomia?
Dysautonomia refers to dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This includes the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Normally, the ANS is responsible for managing your body’s response to physical or emotional stressors.
For example, when you need to run, your sympathetic nervous system helps you out by speeding up your heart rate, increasing blood pressure, sweating, and breathing faster. All of this helps you get adequate oxygen and blood flow to keep up with the increased demand of energy.
Then, when it’s time to relax, your parasympathetic system takes over. Basically, this system calms your body by slowing heart rate, decreasing blood pressure, and slowing down breathing.
When someone has dysautonomia from COVID-19, however, their sympathetic nervous system may be excessive or overactive. That’s why many people who have recovered from COVID-19 report feeling winded and short of breath even when they’re just standing or talking.
There’s still a lot to learn about the long-term symptoms of COVID-19, including the best ways to treat them. The best thing you can do for now is follow the recommended practices to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- Dysautonomia information page. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (Accessed on September 3, 2020)
- Looking forward: understanding the long-term effects of COVID-19. Bethesda, MD: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2020. (Accessed on September 3, 2020)
- Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19). Geneva, Switzerland, 2020. (Accessed on September 3, 2020)