Top long COVID-19 symptoms include fatigue, headache, study finds

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Fatigue and headache were the common symptoms reported by patients with long COVID, more than four months out from infection, new research has found.

The study, published in the journal, Brain, Behavior & Immunitywas conducted by Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University scientists. They also found that muscle aches, cough, changes in smell and taste, fever, chills, and nasal congestion were also high on the list of persistent patient symptoms.

The research was based on preliminary findings from the first visit of 200 patients enrolled in the COVID-19 Neurological and Molecular Prospective Cohort Study in Georgia (CONGA). These patients were recruited approximately 125 days after testing positive for COVID.

According to the study, 80 percent of the first 200 participants reported neurological symptoms with fatigue being reported by 68.5 percent and headache close behind at 66.5 percent. A little more than half of the patients reported changes in smell (54.5 percent) and taste (54 percent) and nearly all the participants met the criteria for mild cognitive impairment.

The study’s first enrollees were largely female, 35.5 percent were male. They were an average of 44.6 years old, nearly 40 percent were Black and 7 percent had been hospitalized because of COVID. Black participants were generally disproportionately affected, according to the authors.

In addition, 75 percent of Black participants and 23.4 percent of white participants met criteria for mild cognitive impairment. According to the authors, the findings likely indicate that cognitive tests assess different ethnic groups differently. And, socioeconomic, psychosocial (issues like family problems, depression, and sexual abuse) and physical health factors generally may disproportionately affect Black individuals, the study found.

Black and Hispanic individuals are considered twice as likely to be hospitalized by COVID and ethnic and racial minorities are more likely to live in areas with higher rates of infection, according to the study. Genetics also is a likely factor for their increased risk from COVID, much like being at higher risk for hypertension and heart disease early and more severely in life.