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Could Folks Suffer From 'Long Colds,' Similar to Long COVID?

FRIDAY, Oct. 6, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Long COVID, a constellation of symptoms that extend past the initial illness, is now a recognized condition.

But researchers say COVID-19 may not be the only respiratory virus that causes these lasting health impacts — "long colds" may also exist.

“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,” said lead study author Giulia Vivaldi, a researcher from Queen Mary University of London.

To study this, researchers compared the prevalence and severity of long-term symptoms after a COVID case versus illness with another acute respiratory infection that tested negative for COVID-19.

Those recovering from COVID-19 were more likely to feel lightheaded or dizzy after the illness and to have problems with taste and smell compared to those who had a non-COVID respiratory infection.

While those with a “long cold” didn’t seem to have those symptoms, among the symptoms they experienced were cough, stomach pain and diarrhea that lingered for more than four weeks.

Severity of illness seemed to drive these other symptoms. Other respiratory illnesses can include colds, the flu and pneumonia.

“As research into long COVID continues, we need to take the opportunity to investigate and consider the lasting effects of other acute respiratory infections,” Vivaldi said in a university news release.

“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,” she added.

The study is the latest from COVIDENCE UK, Queen Mary University of London’s national study of COVID, which was launched back in 2020. The study has more than 19,000 participants enrolled.

This study, published online Oct. 6 in The Lancet’s EClinicalMedicine journal,analyzed data from more than 10,000 British adults.

“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,” said Adrian Martineau, chief investigator of COVIDENCE UK and a clinical professor of respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary University of London.

“Ongoing research into the long-term effects of COVID-19 and other acute respiratory infections is important because it can help us to get to the root of why some people experience more prolonged symptoms than others,” Martineau said. “Ultimately this could help us to identify the most appropriate form of treatment and care for affected people.”

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on long COVID.

SOURCE: Queen Mary University of London, news release, Oct. 6, 2023

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