Feel Like You've Got Long COVID But Never Tested Positive? This Could Be Why

A study suggests that 'long cold' could be as likely as long COVID.
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You’ve probably already heard of long COVID ― but in case you haven’t, the Centre for Disease Control defines it as “signs, symptoms, and conditions that continue or develop after acute COVID-19 infection.”

It can last for months, or even years, after the initial infection ― some report symptoms like brain fog and fatigue long after their COVID was ‘active.’ “At least 65 million individuals worldwide are estimated to have long COVID,” says Nature Reviews Microbiology.

And now, it seems the common cold could have similar implications for some patients ― though there’s no research yet to suggest they’re as severe or long-lasting as those with long COVID.

A recent study on the topic, which was led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), was published in the Lancet’s EClinicalMedicine journal.

Their findings suggested that COVID isn’t the only respiratory condition that could have longer-lasting effects ― colds, pneumonia, ’flu, and more could have under-reported longer-term consequences for some.

The study involved 10,203 participants

Their research involved 10,203 people who took the COVID-based Covidence UK survey during the pandemic.

The researchers found that 22% of participants had signs of long COVID ― and interestingly, another 22% had similar long-term symptoms despite having never had COVID to begin with.

This suggests that there’s a similar risk of longer-term symptoms with both those who had COVID and those with non-COVID acute respiratory infections (non-COVID-19 ARIs).

The symptoms, however, may be different.

“Participants with SARS-CoV-2 infection were more likely to report problems with taste or smell and lightheadedness or dizziness than those with non-COVID-19 ARI, but we observed little difference in other symptoms or HRQoL [quality of life] measures,” the researchers say.

Those with long COVID also seemed more likely to face other symptoms, such as hair loss, sweating, and palpitations, than those with long non-COVID ARIs.

Those with long non-COVID ARIs, on the other hand, tended to report a hoarse voice and a cough. Both faced breathlessness and fatigue.

In both COVID and non-COVID ARIs, it seems that more severe the acute case was, the more likely the patient is to develop symptoms that last longer than four weeks.

It might help those who aren’t sure why they feel off

Professor Adrian Martineau, Clinical Professor of Respiratory Infection and Immunity at Queen Mary University of London, said“Our findings may chime with the experience of people who have struggled with prolonged symptoms after having a respiratory infection despite testing negative for COVID-19 on a nose or throat swab.”

And Giulia Vivaldi, lead author of the study, says ” A lack of awareness—or even the lack of a common term —prevents both reporting and diagnosis of these conditions... 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.”

They add that more research needs to be done into the topic, as it’s important to work out why some people suffer more ― and longer ― than others.