A recent study has found that people may experience long colds, symptoms that last for longer that four weeks, after contracting an acute respiratory infection.

The study, led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), observed that acute respiratory infections that test negative for COVID-19, such as colds or pneumonia, can leave behind unrecognised yet long-lasting health issues in some people.

The most common symptoms that people experience four weeks after catching an infection include coughing, stomach pain and diarrhoea.

Researchers found that the severity of the illness correlates to the risk of experiencing long term symptoms yet there is no evidence to imply that the symptoms are as severe or last as long as COVID-19.

Professor Adrian Martineau, a clinical professor of respiratory infection and immunity at QMUL, said: “Our findings may chime with the experience of people who have struggled with prolonged symptoms after having a respiratory infection despite testing negative for COVID-19 on a nose or throat swab.

“Ongoing research into the long-term effects of COVID-19 and other acute respiratory infections is important because it can help us to get to the root of why some people experience more prolonged symptoms than others. Ultimately this could help us to identify the most appropriate form of treatment and care for affected people.”

The study analysed data from 10,203 people who took part in the Covidence UK study, a national study initiated in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. At the time, 1,343 had tested positive for COVID-19 and 472 had tested negative for COVID-19 but had a respiratory infection.

According to the results, 22% of people with COVID-19 had long-lasting symptoms and 22% of people with a non COVID-19 infection had long-lasting symptoms. Whether people had COVID-19 or another respiratory infection, their risk of long-lasting symptoms was similar.

The common symptoms for those who had COVID-19 included issues with taste and smell, light-headedness and dizziness. They also had heart palpitations, sweating and hair loss. Those who had a non COVID-19 related respiratory infection were more likely to suffer from a cough or hoarse voice. Both groups experienced fatigue and breathlessness.

Dr David Strain, a clinical senior lecturer and honorary consultant at the University of Exeter, was not involved in the study but applauded its results. He said that the researchers “demonstrated, at least in the short term, persistence of symptoms can be troubling not just after COVID-19 but after many other infections”.

The study was published in the Lancet’s journal EClinicalMedicine.

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