Imperial College London’s REACT-LC study found catching Covid-19 in the colder winter months may be a factor in whether some people find their symptoms persisting
More people could avoid debilitating Long Covid if they catch the virus in the warmer months of the year, new research suggests.
Latest findings from the most detailed study yet into the little understood syndrome found that rates dropped as the British weather improved.
Researchers believe catching the virus in the colder winter months may be a factor in whether some symptoms persist.
Initial polling conducted between September 2020 and February 2021 on 508,000 Brits found that of those who reported having had Covid, 37% had at least one lasting symptom 12 weeks later.
New data on 100,000 more Brits who took part in Imperial College London’s REACT-LC study shows those questioned in May 2021 saw prevalence drop to 22%.
One theory is that getting outdoor social contact and exercise in the brighter weather improves the chances of recovering from lasting illness.
Author Prof Helen Ward said: “Fatigue and tiredness was the most commonly reported symptoms. They may have symptoms that are affected by the seasons.
“Even if the [Long Covid] estimates are at the lower end of the spectrum, we conclude that a lot of people have long persisting symptoms.
“This is a major, major challenge [for the NHS ]. It’s the next big global health challenge.”
The findings, soon to be published in the journal Nature Communications, show women are 38% more likely to suffer with Long Covid despite being less likely than men to suffer with severe complications during the initial infection.
Detailed analysis found that symptoms lasted for at least 12 weeks tended to group together.
Many patients suffer from lingering respiratory symptoms such as tight chest and shortness of breath.
A second group of Long Covid sufferers tended to have tiredness, muscle and joint aches as well as difficulty sleeping
Initial polling had come at the height of the pandemic when many people were going through lockdowns and staying home more.
Researchers cannot rule out part of the difference in the later polling being down to people forgetting that their symptoms had lasted that long.
Prof Ward added: “Most of the infections reported were from before 2020 so there may be some aspect of recall bias.”
At least half of the UK population is thought to have had symptomatic Covid.
The study is being funded by the Government through UK Research and Innovation.
Researchers found that for most people who caught Covid then symptoms faded in the first month.
However if any symptom remained for 12 weeks then it tended to be with the patient for at least six months.
“That suggests there’s some chronic illness going on there,” Prof Ward said.
“We know millions of people in the UK have had this infection.
“The more extreme cases have been left with significant disability, such as profound tiredness and brain fog, and they really can’t function and hold down a job.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.