What is long COVID?
Dr. David Putrino, Director of Rehabilitation Innovation at Mount Sinai Health System, has been working to help patients with long COVID, a post-viral condition, throughout the pandemic.
Dr. Putrino said on KCBS Radio’s “Ask An Expert,” that while it is “tricky” to diagnose because of its novelty, they currently refer to anybody who has started to develop ongoing, persistent symptoms within 4 weeks of initial infection as a long COVID patient.
“We had a novel virus, and now we have a novel post-viral condition, and that’s how we’re going to treat it until we know better,” he said.
His team is currently tracking up to 60 symptoms, but Dr. Putrino said the most common are extreme fatigue, exercise intolerance, exertion intolerance, chest pain, shortness of breath, memory issues, difficulty concentrating and irregular heartbeat. Those symptoms, he noted, have been seen in a little over 80% of long COVID patients.
He said that when people experience a post-viral syndrome, a multitude of things that the body usually controls automatically become problematic.
“When to breathe, when your heart should beat, how quickly your heart should beat, when you sweat – all of these things that you don’t usually think about too hard, they’re all out of whack, and all of a sudden you’re having a whole bunch of very unpredictable and very scary, unregulated symptoms,” Dr. Putrino told KCBS Radio.
He said that many patients feel mentally exhausted because it now takes them a whole lot of cognitive effort just to get through the day.
“The encouraging news is, once we start to get a handle on the other symptoms, the cognitive symptoms start to resolve on their own,” the doctor noted.
Nevertheless, neuropsychologists still work with patients to manage cognitive symptoms and help them function, Dr. Putrino said, adding that people who have or think they have long COVID and are looking to manage symptoms, should consult with their doctor. He noted that patients can also utilize a breath work protocol that has helped some gain control of their symptoms.