SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — We’re now more than a year into the pandemic and Central New York doctors are noticing an increased number of young people suffering from long-term health effects after catching COVID-19.
This is just preliminary medical information, but there’s good science behind why this may be happening and how many people it’s impacting.
NewsChannel 9 reached out to its viewers about this topic on Facebook and ever since, we’ve been getting emails and messages from COVID long-haulers, sharing stories and looking for answers.
One of those viewers is Mara Dummitt of Baldwinsville, N.Y. She was diagnosed with COVID-19 back in December, and hasn’t been able to walk a flight of stairs without running out of breath ever since.
“Due to having covid, I developed, my left ventricle in my heart was inflamed. And because my work was so strenuous, I wasn’t able to go back,” Dummitt said.
Dummitt had to leave her job at FedEx because she simply couldn’t keep up with the physical labor anymore. She now works two other jobs to try and make payments, as a single mom of three. Dummitt has been to her primary care physician and has seen several specialists, but is getting limited answers.
“They cant tell me how long this is going to last. They’re not really giving me much information as to how I can get rid of the inflammation of my left ventricle. Is it something that I’m going to have to deal with for the rest of my life,” Dummitt asked.
These are questions doctors are trying to answer right now. Now a year into the pandemic, they’re seeing more and more of these patients, calling them “COVID long haulers.”
Dr. Russell Silverman, Director of the Heart Failure Clinic at St. Joseph’s Health, has seen an increased number of young patients, ranging from 20 to 50 years old, who have had COVID and are still seeing side effects.
Here are some of the main symptoms he’s noticing in ‘long COVID’ patients.
- Heart Palpitations
- Shortness of breath. Which, Dr. Silverman says when he checks the patient’s oxygen levels, they’re normal. But, they still have the sensation of running out of breath.
- Brain fog
- Stomach and digestion issues
“So what happens with these patients is that they try to go do something that they were able to do six months ago. But they can’t because their heart rate goes up so fast, it becomes counterproductive by increasing the amount of blood that gets pumped to the heart, they get fatigued, they get dizzy, their blood pressure drops. And they just can’t do what they did,” Dr. Silverman said.
Silverman said not everyone will have the same or all of these symptoms. He says you don’t need to have had a bad case of COVID to see these long term effects, either. But it is more likely in those who did, plus it’s more likely for those suffering from pre-existing conditions like diabetes, heart problems, or high blood pressure.
Right now, long COVID seems to be lasting around six months for most of Silverman’s patients, but could last up to or more than a year. Since it’s still only a year into the pandemic, there’s limited research on the topic so far. But Dr. Silverman thinks he knows why young people may be seeing more issues after the fact.
“In young people who are particularly susceptible to this autonomic effect of the virus, have a very active autonomic nervous system. Slows down as you get older. So, they may have, may have, a more pronounced side effect or long COVID effect from the infection,” Dr. Silverman said.
Right now, Dr. Silverman is monitoring his long COVID patients, telling them to increase exercise gradually, and giving some of them beta blockers to regulate the heart.
“I would say that if you had these symptoms, and you are suffering with them, you need to contact your primary care provider. Just don’t say, ‘I have long haul COVID or long COVID, and just wait around until it gets better because there may be ways we can help you get better. There may be ways that we can alleviate some of your symptoms,” Dr. Silverman said.
Dr. Silverman also wants to remind these patients that are not alone. At this time, it is expected that their symptoms will eventually go away, but Dr. Silverman says don’t ignore them right now.
“The norm is that things get better with time, and patience is the main thing that you need to have. Don’t get discouraged, don’t get disgusted. It’s going to get better. You will be able to exercise, you will be able to get back to your normal life. And get your vaccination. You don’t want this again,” Dr. Silverman said.