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Scientists find possibility of "long colds" alongside "long Covid"

Scientists from Queen Mary University of London have discovered that people may suffer from persistent symptoms, or “long colds,” following acute respiratory infections.

The study suggests that there could be long-lasting health impacts following a non-COVID respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu, that are currently going unrecognized.

This phenomenon is similar to “long Covid,” a condition in which individuals experience lingering symptoms after their initial recovery. However, it is not yet clear whether the symptoms of long colds have the same severity or duration as long Covid.

Lasting effects of respiratory infections 

“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 study lead author Giulia Vivaldi. 

“As research into long Covid continues, we need to take the opportunity to investigate and consider the lasting effects of other acute respiratory infections.

“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.”

Symptoms of a long cold

The experts analyzed data from 10,171 UK adults collected by COVIDENCE UK, Queen Mary University of London’s national study of COVID-19. 

The researchers identified common symptoms of the long cold, including coughing, stomach pain, and diarrhea persisting for over four weeks post the initial infection. 

The researchers found that the severity of the initial illness plays a crucial role in determining the risk of developing long-term symptoms. 

More research is needed to clarify why some individuals suffer from prolonged symptoms while others recover quickly.

Focus of the study

The team compared the prevalence and the severity of long-term symptoms occurring after COVID-19 infections with those manifesting post non-COVID-19 respiratory infections. 

The results showed that individuals recovering from COVID-19 were notably more prone to experiencing light-headedness, dizziness, and problems with taste and smell.

Future implications for “long colds”

“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,” explained Professor Adrian Martineau, chief investigator of COVIDENCE UK.

“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. Ultimately this could help us to identify the most appropriate form of treatment and care for affected people.”

Victoria King is the director of Funding and Impact at Barts Charity, an organization dedicated to supporting transformative healthcare research.

“Barts Charity swiftly supported COVIDENCE UK in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 to help inform of its risk factors and impacts. These findings highlight not only the long-term symptoms experienced by people after Covid infection, but by people after other acute respiratory infections as well,” said King. 

“As we learn more about long Covid symptoms and their possible treatments, studies like this help to build greater awareness around other prolonged respiratory infections that may be going unrecognized.” 

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