Not Just ‘Long COVID’: Researchers Find ‘Long Colds’

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A new study from Queen Mary University of London, published in The Lancet’s EClinicalMedicine, has found that people may experience long-term symptoms, termed ‘long colds’, after non-COVID acute respiratory infections.

The ‘long cold’s’ most common symptoms included coughing, stomach pain, and diarrhoea more than four weeks after the initial infection. While the severity of an illness appears to be a key driver of risk of long-term symptoms, just why some people suffer extended symptoms while others do not is a focus of further research.

The findings suggest that there may be long-lasting health impacts following non-COVID acute respiratory infections such as colds, influenza, or pneumonia, that are currently going unrecognised. However, the researchers do not yet have evidence suggesting that the symptoms have the same severity or duration as long COVID.

The research compared the prevalence and severity of long-term symptoms after an episode of COVID versus an episode of another acute respiratory infection that tested negative for COVID. Those recovering from COVID were more likely to experience light-headedness or dizziness and problems with taste and smell compared to those who had a non-COVID respiratory infection.

While long COVID is now a recognised condition, there have been few studies comparing long-term symptoms following SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection versus other respiratory infections.

The study is the latest output from COVIDENCE UK, Queen Mary University of London’s national study of COVID, launched back in 2020 and still in follow-up, with over 19 000 participants enrolled. This study analysed data from 10 171 UK adults, with responses collected via questionnaires and statistical analysis carried out to identify symptom clusters.

Giulia Vivaldi, researcher on COVIDENCE UK from Queen Mary University of London and the lead author of the study, said: “Our findings shine a light not only on the impact of long COVID on people’s lives, but also other respiratory infections. A lack of awareness – or even the lack of a common term – prevents both reporting and diagnosis of these conditions.

“As research into long COVID continues, we need to take the opportunity to investigate and consider the lasting effects of other acute respiratory infections.

“These ‘long’ infections are so difficult to diagnose and treat primarily because of a lack of diagnostic tests and there being so many possible symptoms. There have been more than 200 investigated for long COVID alone.”

Source: Queen Mary University of London

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