How long it takes to return to normal after mild COVID-19 infection.
While most people do not experience long-term illness after infection, some however suffer from long COVID.
According to a study, patients with mild COVID-19 will recover from lingering symptoms and return to normal life within one year.
Long COVID is a long-term health condition occurring after recovery from the initial infection with on and off symptoms such as dyspnea (shortness of breath), loss of smell, loss of taste, poor concentration, and fatigue.
Breathing problems appear to be the most common symptom of long COVID which affects more unvaccinated people than vaccinated ones.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, the long COVID phenomenon has caused lots of anxiety and even fear in the population.
However, the research shows that the majority of patients with mild COVID infection will recover quickly showing no signs of serious illness or long term health conditions.
For instance, the number of long COVID patients in the UK is estimated at about 1.5 million, which is equivalent to 2.4 percent of the population.
Long COVID symptoms study
To analyse the outcomes of long COVID illness, researchers compared the health status of patients who had recovered from prolonged symptoms one year after infection with uninfected people.
They checked the medical data of 2.5 million Israelis and compared vaccinated patients with unvaccinated people with or without COVID infection.
Those seriously ill from coronavirus and patients with prior health conditions were excluded.
Other factors such as smoking, alcohol intake, and socioeconomic status were also taken into consideration as they could potentially influence the results.
During early and late periods of COVID-19 infection, patients were more likely to suffer from conditions such as breathing difficulties, dizziness, fatigue, loss of smell and taste, palpitations, poor concentration, and sore throat.
Patients were more likely to experience respiratory disorders, muscle aches, chest pain, hair loss, and cough during the early period of coronavirus disease.
People who had mild COVID-19 were nearly 5 times more likely to experience loss of smell and taste during the early phase and 3 times more likely in the late period.
Fatigue, shortness of breath, and sore throat were the most probable symptoms in patients with long COVID.
Vaccinated people who got sick with COVID-19 were less likely to experience breathing difficulty than unvaccinated patients but the risk of developing all other symptoms was similar in both groups.
The authors write that:
“Our study suggests that mild COVID-19 patients are at risk for a small number of health outcomes and most of them are resolved within a year from diagnosis.
Importantly, the risk for lingering dyspnea was reduced in vaccinated patients with breakthrough infection compared with unvaccinated people, while risks of all other outcomes were comparable.”
The study was published in The BMJ (Mizrahi et al., 2023).