The challenge of getting help for long COVID

21/09/2022 | 2 mins

Swollen eyes, aching feet, insomnia and crippling fatigue are some of the symptoms of long COVID and several years into the pandemic treatment remains challenging, according to Professor Peter Richmond. 

Professor Richmond, the Head of Paediatrics at The University of Western Australia’s School of Medicine and  Head of the Vaccine Trials Group at the Telethon Kids Institute, said with almost half of Australians having had COVID-19 at some stage, there were many emerging cases of long COVID where debilitating symptoms drag on for months.

He acknowledged it was often difficult for patients to get a definitive diagnosis and find help and fatigue was one of the most common symptoms. 

“Fatigue is up there, ongoing breathing difficulties, loss of a sense of taste and smell, recurrent chest pains, difficulty sleeping — they are probably the most common symptoms,” Professor Richmond said. 

“If you have been in ICU, it might be upwards of 40 per cent of people who will still have symptoms three months later.” 

He said people who had a milder infection were less likely to suffer from long COVID but it still could occur. 

Professor Richmond said despite the number of people suffering with longer term symptoms, he was not aware of any long COVID clinics. 

“People are not sure what the best treatments are,” he said. 

“We need more clinical trials in Australia of treatment because that is the way we are going to get the best information. There are current trials in the UK that are comparing potential treatments which may help us in the long run.” 

Professor Richmond said in the meantime people with long COVID should seek specialists in treating the symptom that was causing them the most trouble.

He also recommended vaccinations to reduce the risk of severe COVID infections. 

“We know vaccination does reduce your risk of long COVID,” he said 

“There’s emerging evidence that getting recurrent COVID infections makes these sorts of long COVID symptoms more likely so getting boosters is important.” 

UWA and Telethon Kids Institute researchers are working with study sites around Australia to see what effect COVID-19 booster vaccination has on the immune system, how long these effects last and what the optimal booster strategies are for people living in Australia.

If you’d like to take part in the PICOBOO study you can find out more here.

Media references

Cecile O’Connor  (UWA Media & PR Advisor) 6488 6876

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