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Long Covid: Range of symptoms continue to persist well beyond initial infection

Patients have reported brain fog, high resting heart rate palpitations and insomnia

We have all been doing our utmost to try and keep ourselves and our loved ones safe from the pandemic which is still making its presence felt around the world.

And while a large number of people have unfortunately died from the virus, many others have thankfully recovered and lived to tell the tale. However, there is one group of people who contracted Covid and survived, but have been left with long-lasting side effects.

Clodagh de Roiste

Clodagh de Roiste developed the virus in March and as her symptoms were mild, she was initially told that her tickly cough, sinus headache, breathlessness and kidney pain was nothing to worry about. But her symptoms deteriorated, and it was recommended that she go to hospital where she went downhill rapidly and has been suffering with a variety of different issues ever since.

“A lot of symptoms lasted over three months, but eventually the coughing started to ease,” says the 46-year-old. “I was in hospital three times for short periods where I was kept on oxygen and a nebuliser – and then I was sent home to isolate. My voice went last March, and it still hasn’t come back fully so now, most of the time, I sound like I have a bad case of laryngitis or a very bad throat infection.


“Along with that, my throat still hurts, I have neck spasms, and sometimes choke on food, so I have to be careful eating. I am also left with breathing difficulties, and I have been prescribed inhalers to use. I get tingling sensations and muscular spasms in my limbs, my neck and throat. And I still get headaches and migraines which cause blurred vision, and I find I have some trouble concentrating at times.”

I am still unable to stand or walk for prolonged periods of time and need to rest between activity . . . I'm also still struggling with insomnia

De Roiste also experiences chronic fatigue and says she find its very difficult to believe that she is still suffering almost a year later. “I was told I had “prolonged post-Covid symptoms” in May and since then the terminology has been changed to “Long Covid”, she says.

“I was asked to take part in a study so doctors could learn more about how the virus affects people long term, but since then, nothing has happened. So far, I’ve had the feeling of being brushed aside and not being listened to by medical professionals – and that is hard to take.

“I feel that I haven’t received specific or proper treatment to address the prolonged symptoms I have been left with and suffer from on a daily basis. I have been given no indication from any health or medical professionals of how long I will be left like this, or if any of the symptoms are permanent. They simply tell me that they do not know. I find this a major cause for concern, and I do worry about it.

“Really, the whole experience has been a challenge, and has been upsetting at times, especially trying to get the correct medical attention, and some kind of plan in place for the future. And right now, I do not see any light at the end of this tunnel.”

Unfortunately, due to the fact that it is a new disease, a spokeswoman for the HSE says information on its side-effects is still scant.

“We have no national data at this time on how many Irish people experience prolonged symptoms, though there are some reports from individual centres,” she says. “Longer-term observational studies will be required to understand the health consequences presently being attributed to post Covid-19 infection. The HSE has been in touch with and will be engaging a group of people who are suffering post-Covid symptoms.”

Diarmaid Barry

He welcomes any information regarding Long Covid as he also developed the virus last March during the first wave of infections and, like de Roiste, Barry’s symptoms were quite mild so he assumed he would be back to full health in a few weeks.

But this was not the case and unfortunately, almost a year later, the 30-year-old is still suffering from the aftermath of Covid-19.

“For three or four months following the infection, I was just about managing with daily activities, exercise and work but the vast array of symptoms and tiredness were becoming increasingly problematic,” says the 30-year-old.

“Then during the summer, things got drastically worse as chronic fatigue set in and I had absolute exhaustion, both physically and mentally to a point where I couldn’t move or even think at times.

“It’s almost overwhelming to give an account of the range of symptoms as there are just so many. They include brain fog, high resting heart rate which increases significantly on standing or walking, heart palpitations, insomnia, muscle and joint pain, bruising, lack of concentration, difficulty remembering things, short-term memory loss, severe headaches/migraines, nausea, stomach ache, lack of appetite, fatigue, post-exertional malaise, breathlessness, sore throat, fluctuation in body temperature and irritated eyes.

“It also includes severe back pain to the extent that I was unable to walk at one stage, facial numbness, tingling sensation, light and noise sensitivity, circulatory issues with hands and feet, tinnitus, blurred vision, damage to vocal cords, breathlessness when speaking, and the list goes on.

“I am nowhere near being able to say that I have recovered, but thankfully I have improved somewhat over the past couple of months. However, I am not sure if this can be attributed to the passing of time or the supplements and low-histamine diet that I am now on. The pain is now less severe, and the headaches and heart palpitations are less frequent, however if I push myself too far, this results in a relapse of symptoms. My resting heart rate is still high and increases further when standing or walking. I am still unable to stand or walk for prolonged periods of time and need to rest between activity. Prioritisation of daily tasks is a necessity and I’m also still struggling with insomnia.”

Barry, who is based in Dublin but has moved back with family in Mayo for the time being, has not been given any clear indication of a possible end to his suffering.

"I have been diagnosed with Post-Covid Syndrome, but I haven't received any support or advice on treating this illness," he says. "The GPs seem to be at a loss as to how to approach it but the Long Covid Cases group on Facebook has been an invaluable source of support and information and I am attending a clinic which is carrying out research and monitoring patients. Unfortunately, these clinics are not very frequent and are exclusively located in Dublin hospitals resulting in many patients across the country being unable to access them.

"At present, Long Covid Cases Ireland members are currently campaigning for the HSE to make diagnostic and treatment guidelines available to GP's nationwide and to set up multidisciplinary Long Covid clinics across the country as they do in the UK. I don't know how long recovery will take or even whether or not I will recover as there simply aren't any answers – but I continue to remain hopeful."