New study finds long-term symptoms after non-COVID respiratory infections

A recent study conducted by Queen Mary University of London and published in eClinicalMedicine has uncovered the existence of persistent symptoms, often referred to as “long colds,” following acute respiratory infections that have tested negative for COVID-19.

These “long colds” can include a range of symptoms, with some of the most common being coughing, stomach pain, and diarrhea, lasting for more than four weeks after the initial infection. While the severity of the initial illness seems to play a significant role in the risk of experiencing these extended symptoms, further research is ongoing to understand why some individuals develop prolonged symptoms while others do not.

This study highlights the potential long-term health impacts associated with non-COVID acute respiratory infections like the common cold, influenza, or pneumonia, which have largely gone unrecognized until now. However, it’s important to note that the researchers have not yet established whether these symptoms are as severe or persistent as those seen in long COVID cases.

The research involved comparing the prevalence and severity of long-term symptoms between individuals recovering from COVID-19 and those recovering from other acute respiratory infections that tested negative for COVID-19. Notably, those with COVID-19 were more likely to experience symptoms like light-headedness, dizziness, and issues with taste and smell compared to those with non-COVID respiratory infections.

While long COVID is now recognized as a condition, there have been limited studies directly comparing the long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection with those of other respiratory infections.

This study is part of COVIDENCE UK, a national study of COVID-19 launched in 2020 by Queen Mary University of London, which continues to follow over 19,000 participants. The research analyzed data from 10,171 UK adults through questionnaires and statistical analysis to identify patterns of symptoms.

Giulia Vivaldi, a researcher involved in COVIDENCE UK, emphasized the importance of investigating the lasting effects of various acute respiratory infections. She pointed out the challenges in diagnosing and treating these “long” infections due to the lack of diagnostic tests and the wide range of possible symptoms, with more than 200 symptoms investigated for long COVID alone.

Professor Adrian Martineau, Chief Investigator of COVIDENCE UK, highlighted the significance of ongoing research into the long-term effects of both COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. Understanding why some people experience prolonged symptoms can ultimately lead to improved treatment and care for affected individuals.

Victoria King, Director of Funding and Impact at Barts Charity, stressed the importance of studies like this in building awareness not only around long COVID but also around extended symptoms following other respiratory infections, which may have gone unnoticed.

Source: Queen Mary, University of London

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