You Asked: Can Coronovirus Have Lasting Complications?

Mar 27, 2020

We're continuing to answer questions about the coronavirus and COVID-19. Here are the latest; if you have more, here's how to send a question.

Do people who recover from coronavirus have any long-lasting symptoms or side effects?

It all depends on the severity of the case. Dr. Abhijit Duggal, a critical care specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, told USA Today that about 80% of COVID-19 patients recover with no complications. As for that remaining 20%, it may be too early to tell.

Early tests by doctors in Hong Kong found that some recovered patients had a 20% to 30% drop in lung capacity and got winded by walking, according to the South China Morning Post. But that figure comes from a very, very small study group: 12 patients, of whom two or three had difficulty breathing afterward. 

Dr Owen Tsang Tak-yin of Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung, who reported the observations, said those patients would undergo tests and exercise therapy to determine whether lung capacity could be improved. He also said the long-term effects on recovered patients, such as whether they would develop pulmonary fibrosis, a condition where lung tissue hardened and the organ could not function properly, had yet to be determined, according to the Post.

In severe coronavirus cases, patients can develop acute respiratory distress syndrome. Coronavirus targets the lungs, and that syndrome can develop if the lungs have suffered significant damage. Dr. Nuala Meyer, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, told USA Today that survivors “tend to lose peripheral muscle mass and muscle function” due to oxygen deprivation. 

Doctors are continuing to monitor and study the disease’s effects on the body. 

I have had horrible hives for about four days, I also have a slight cold, occasional cough and congestion. I was wondering if the hives are a symptom of COVID-19?

Neither the Centers for Disease Control or the World Health Organization has listed hives as a symptom of the coronavirus. A fact-checking organization in the U.K. also found no evidence that a rash, or hives, is a symptom of coronavirus. 

My husband owns a massage therapy clinic, and his employees work one-on-one with clients. The therapists are worried about coming into contact with people who may not know they have coronavirus. Should we shut down our office for the next two to three weeks?

It’s possible that your state may make this decision for you. Many states, including the Midwest, are issuing “shelter in place” or “stay at home” orders to contain the spread of the virus. In Indiana, the governor ordered the temporary closing of all non-essential businesses, including “all fitness and exercise gyms, spas, salons and similar facilities.” Even if your state has not yet issued a mandate, the CDC is recommending that people postpone non-essential health appointments. 

A lot of industries also offer recommendations. For example, Massage Mag and the American Massage Therapy Association are compiling resources and guidelines. The association has an up-to-date listing of state mandates on closures, restrictions, and guidelines related to the massage therapy profession. 

I am a mental health professional and am currently required to see patients in person. They are typically appointments that are an hour in length in a small room. Is it advisable for me to wear a mask while seeing patients? Can patients unknowingly have the virus and spread it before they are symptomatic?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Some spread [of coronavirus] might be possible before people show symptoms...but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.” Additionally, the CDC does not recommend wearing a facemask “unless you are caring for someone who is sick [and they are not able to wear a facemask]. Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.”

As more states are issuing “shelter in place” or “stay at home” orders, many mental health clinics are moving their practices online. It may be worth exploring telehealth options for your patients. The American Psychiatric Association has resources about that approach. 

If someone is asthmatic and cannot control their symptoms, and cannot get proper medicine because of not having health insurance, are they still obligated to work?

Neither the state of Indiana nor the federal government has mandated that employers give leave to anyone with asthma or other conditions that put them at risk for coronavirus. That decision is left to individual employers. Here's the recommendation from the CDC:  "Be aware that some employees may be at higher risk for serious illness, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions. Consider minimizing face-to-face contact between these employees or assign work tasks that allow them to maintain a distance of six feet from other workers, customers and visitors, or to telework if possible."

Some states have issued “stay at home” or “shelter in place" orders, meaning only “essential” businesses and services can stay open. The definition of “essential” businesses varies from state to state, and some ask residents to report businesses that are not complying with government orders. If such an order is in place for your state, check to see if your place of employment is supposed to be open. If not, it may be worth talking to your employer or seeing if your state has a way to report potential violators. 

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news collaborative covering public health.

This is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. However, we recommend checking the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most recent numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Throughout the year, Side Effects will work closely with Indiana Public Broadcasting and WFYI to ask Americans about health issues, as part of the America Amplified: Election 2020 initiative. To join our texting group, text elections to 73224; we'll send questions each month and use your answers to inform our reporting. To contact us directly with a question, email health@wfyi.org

America Amplified: Election 2020 is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. America Amplified is using community engagement to inform and strengthen local, regional and national journalism. Follow the initiative on Twitter at @amplified2020.