Long Covid

Or something/anything/nothing else?

by Rick Johansen

Around four years ago, we learned of a new virus that was spreading around China. Few of us paid much attention. After all, we had heard stories like this before, of new, dangerous viruses that could spread around the world, killing millions of people round the world. And they never really arrived. But Covid-19 did arrive with terrible consequences for millions of people and not just those who died. People are now living with a condition called Long Covid and the worst thing about it is that science doesn’t know much about it. So, what are the symptoms of Long Covid? Putting on my Jeremy Beadle voice, take a look at this:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Difficulty concentrating
  3. Muscle aches
  4. Shortness of breath

But there’s more. There are many other symptoms of long Covid that have been identified through research. They include:

Heart and circulatory symptoms

  • chest tightness or pain
  • heart palpitations
  • changes to heart rate

Joint and muscle pain

  • muscle and joint pain
  • pain in the back or shoulders

Brain (neurological or cognitive) symptoms

  • not being able to think straight or focus (‘brain fog’)
  • headaches
  • hallucinations
  • amnesia
  • dizziness
  • difficulty with motor function or speech
  • pins and needles

Mental health effects

  • symptoms of anxiety, such as worrying, feeling on edge or having difficulty sleeping
  • symptoms of depression such as low mood, feeling helpless, having low motivation, or not enjoying usual activities
  • symptoms of PTSD

Respiratory symptoms

  • persistent cough
  • sore throat
  • difficulty breathing

Stomach and digestive symptoms

  • stomach pain
  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting
  • bowel incontinence

Ear nose and throat symptoms

  • changes to sense of smell or taste
  • earache
  • ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

General symptoms

  • nausea
  • a high temperature
  • feeling hot and cold
  • heavy arms or legs

Skin and hair symptoms

  • hair loss
  • skin rashes

Apart from that, there’s nothing to worry about.

I have no idea if I have long Covid. After my first brush with the disease in 2021, I didn’t feel there were any lasting consequences. I was a bit more knackered than usual and I had brain fog, but then I often have brain fog, so maybe Covid has nothing to do with that. But the Covid I picked up, almost certainly on an Air Canada A330, flying from Heathrow to Toronto, has taken far longer to piss off, as we medical folk describe it.

In early September, my symptoms were as follows:

  • Stinking cold
  • One night where I felt achey
  • One night when I had a temperature
  • A very irritating cough, which varied between dry and productive (sorry if you are eating your lunch)
  • Feeling knackered
  • Brain fog

Some of it has gone, but some things remain. The cough, though mostly gone, is just hanging on, making my existing asthma a tad more bothersome. Alternatively, has it made my asthma permanently worse? Not even the top boffins have a clue, but clearly something has happened.

I am not alone in this. So many people who have had Covid tell similar stories. Is there something going on or is Long Covid a bit worse than we imagined it was? I hope I’m not coming across all David Icke and dabbling in conspiracy theories because that’s definitely not the intention. But I am wondering if I’ll ever feel right again.

Some of the fittest people I know have been diagnosed with previously unrecognised conditions, including heart conditions. I’ve had tests and screenings and scans and all the rest of it for symptoms I have never experienced before and the medics can’t find anything obvious to be wrong. So, what is it? Something? Anything? Nothing? Is it just coincidence? Is it simply that I am slipping irreversibly into old age and I’m falling apart? I’m definitely falling apart, but is that?

Answers on a postcard, please, but don’t send them to me because if there is a medical explanation, I probably wouldn’t understand it anyway. What I do know is that I don’t feel as well as I did before I had Covid. And I felt pretty good back then.

It’s definitely worth avoiding Covid, if you can. The vaccine has obviously me me feel less rubbish and who knows what might have happened if hadn’t had the remnants of my previous shot in my system? Long Covid, or whatever I have, is pretty shit and I just hope it goes away soon, for all of us.


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