When Symptoms of Covid-19 Don’t Go Away

Research is underway to assess the pandemic’s long-term effects and find ways to prevent and treat lasting symptoms.

By Jane E. Brody

Judy Londa, a 55-year-old Brooklynite who had been traveling by subway to teach art in a Manhattan public school earlier this year, developed symptoms of Covid-19 two days before in-person schooling was abruptly canceled mid-March.

Ms. Londa said she was very ill for two weeks with “intense chest tightness that felt like a car was parked on it and barely able to walk from one room to another.” But she stayed out of the hospital, using FaceTime to consult regularly with her doctor, an infectious disease specialist.

By May she felt well enough to stroll around the neighborhood, gradually increasing the distance she walked. She expected a full recovery. But now, more than six months after she fell ill, walking up even a short hill can exhaust her, and she wonders if she will ever again feel like the athletic, energetic, healthy woman she was before the novel coronavirus turned her life into a roller coaster of recurring illness despite no evidence of an active infection.

“I will feel better for about five days and able to walk a mile or more and do yoga, then I’m flattened again for another five days,” Ms. Londa told me. “On-and-off like a switch, the same symptoms keep repeating — a feeling like cement is pushing on my chest, chills, cough, sore throat, dry mouth, tingling in my arm, an irregular heartbeat. I’m about to fall asleep, then suddenly start gasping for air like I’m drowning, and I have to get up and walk. It’s really, really depressing.”

Covid-19 also has left her with health problems she never had before: pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and premature ventricular contractions — a heart flutter caused by extra beats in one of the heart’s pumping chambers. Checking with Covid-19 survivors on Facebook, she found that others shared her lingering, recurring symptoms. Now with students back in school, she’s resumed teaching remotely to conserve energy.

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