We've got news for you.

Register on TimesLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

Your Covid-19 questions answered

How do I know if I have ‘long Covid’?

22 September 2021 - 07:00
Long Covid is a persistence of Covid-19 symptoms long after the illness.
Long Covid is a persistence of Covid-19 symptoms long after the illness.
Image: 123RF/Diego Vito Cervo

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says there is no way to test patients directly for long Covid, a persistence of Covid-19 symptoms about four weeks after recovery or a negative test.

Patients with persistent Covid-19 symptoms should be examined by healthcare professionals who will rule out other causes of the symptoms.

The institute said causes for symptoms may include bacterial pneumonia, tuberculosis and worsening symptoms relating to underlying comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension

Patients who tested positive for Covid-19 through a test, or those who have symptoms after experiencing a Covid-19-like illness without testing positive, and still have symptoms four weeks after the illness may be considered to have long Covid, provided other possibilities have been examined and ruled out. 

Johannesburg-based GP Marlin McKay told TimesLIVE long Covid may take a toll on the mental wellness of sufferers who often feel helpless against it. 

“One of the methods I use is reassurance. Some patients are made to feel as if it is in their heads. They are told to be grateful to be alive.

“You can’t test long Covid and you can’t do an X-ray. It is your word against the doctor’s. It creates a lot of anxiety and patients have post-traumatic stress because they survive Covid-19 and end up stuck with this,” said McKay.

“Patients complain that it’s even more debilitating than Covid-19. Brain fog, memory loss, persistent headaches, persistent shortness of breath and coughing. There is no solution. We don't know how long it’s going to last. We don’t have any specific medication that can take it away,” said McKay, who advised the vaccine reduces chances of getting long Covid.