If you’re a woman or you experienced multiple COVID-19 symptoms in the first week of infection, you’re more likely to experience long COVID, according to new research.
New analysis by researchers at King’s College London, using data from the COVID Symptom Study app, shows that 1 in 20 people with COVID-19 are likely to suffer symptoms for eight weeks or more – so-called long COVID. This potentially adds up to millions worldwide.
Now, the researchers have identified the long COVID risk factors, providing some insight into who is most likely to be affected.
Having more than five different symptoms in the first week of infection was one of the key risk factors. Headache, fatigue, new loss of taste or smell, fever and a persistent cough are the five most common symptoms of COVID-19 people have reported to the app. Other possible symptoms include a rash, diarrhea and vomiting.
Women under the age of 50 were 50% more likely to suffer from long COVID than men (14.5% compared with 9.5%). However, this gender difference wasn’t seen in the older age categories.
Overall, the chance of being impacted by long covid increased with age. Long COVID was found to affect around 10% of 18-49 year olds who become unwell with coronavirus, rising to 22% of over 70s.
Weight also plays a role, with people developing long COVID having a slightly higher average body mass index than those with a shorter case of the illness.
The study focused on data from 4,182 COVID Symptom Study app users who had been consistently logging their health and tested positive for COVID-19 through swab PCR testing.
The team found that while most people with COVID-19 reported being back to normal in 11 days or less, around one in seven (13.3%) had COVID-19 symptoms lasting for at least four weeks, with around 1 in 20 (4.5%) staying ill for eight weeks and 1 in 50 (2.3%) suffering for longer than 12 weeks.
Claire Steves, clinical academic and senior author from King’s College London, thanked everyone who’s used the app so far and urged for more people to take part.
Tim Spector, COVID Symptom Study lead and a professor of genetic epidemiology from King’s College London, added: “COVID-19 is a mild illness for many, but for 1 in 50, symptoms can persist for longer than 12 weeks. So it’s important that, as well as worrying about excess deaths, we also need to consider those who will be affected by long COVID if we don’t get the pandemic under control soon.”
This post originally appeared in HuffPost UK.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.