The effects of COVID-19 are highly variable, ranging from individuals who are asymptomatic to patients who develop severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, with potential involvement of almost all organs and systems. These acute symptoms have been well described since the first cohort studies that were published at the beginning of the pandemic. In a recent study of 478 patients who were evaluated 4 months after hospitalization for COVID-19, 51% reported at least 1 symptom that did not exist before the disease.
The most common symptoms were fatigue, cognitive problems, and new-onset dyspnea. For months after hospitalization for COVID-19, some patients frequently reported symptoms not previously present, and lung-scan abnormalities were common among those who were tested. Further research is needed to understand longer-term outcomes and whether these findings reflect associations with the disease.
Whether these conditions are related to COVID-19 or not, as caregivers we need to be alert to any changes in condition, especially upon return from the hospital. There are “long-haulers” and there are residents who are affected more dramatically by the virus. Listen to their concerns, if they say they are fatigued or appear to have shortness of breath or cognitive decline, notify their primary care physician and ask for an evaluation. We certainly won’t’ be able to avoid all of these long-term effects but managing them appropriately is our responsibility. Stay well, roll up your sleeves and stay tuned!