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America’s Next Health Crisis: Preparing to Help People With Long COVID

How many people are dealing with Long COVID? If you are a long hauler, you definitely aren’t alone

The COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020 and changed our lives forever. There’s been a ton of discussion around how to deal with “the new normal” involving social distancing, masks, and avoiding crowds—but there hasn’t been a whole lot of talk about “the new normal” for those dealing with long term COVID symptoms.

This is why I was so encouraged to see this article from The New York Times recently about the looming problem of Long COVID. The authors of the article outline their long and traumatic recoveries from the virus, as well as their struggle to find support.

“Yet, a year later, we still struggle to be taken seriously by friends, family members, clinicians and policymakers,” the article says. “People are sympathetic, yet few think long Covid can happen to them, or that it will affect their post-pandemic life. But the long Covid is not a footnote to the pandemic or a curious human-interest story. It is America’s next big health crisis, and we should prepare for it now.”

I totally agree, and as more and more people are diagnosed with Long COVID, this article is just one of many that will undoubtedly be published in the coming months—especially considering the shocking percentage of COVID long haulers.

Long COVID: The “Post-Pandemic Epidemic”

We mentioned Long COVID last summer—and even did a three blog series on how to deal with Post-COVID Inflammatory Syndrome—but have been dismayed at the lack of mainstream coverage of the illness. Now all the patients that have been suffering are finally getting acknowledged. Exact numbers vary, but currently, research is showing that 10 percent of COVID survivors will suffer from Long COVID.

10 Percent of those who have had COVID will still have symptoms three months later, entering the category of “Long Haulers.”

The NYT article states 30 percent of those diagnosed with COVID will get Long COVID. The disparity comes in how people actually get the diagnosis of COVID. This past fall, the data suggested that only 1 in 10 people who came down with COVID were ultimately diagnosed. 

Now the number is 1 in 6.5. I think this is part of the disparity, but no matter how you look at it, at minimum we can expect 3 million people in the U.S. to eventually get diagnosed with Long COVID.

Functional Medicine Poised to Step Up and Help Long Haulers

This “Post-Pandemic Epidemic” will push all of us in the medical field to think differently, those in the healthcare industry to operate differently, and our entire healthcare industry to change. 

Functional Medicine treatment will have the opportunity to shine and step up alongside our colleagues taking care of the bulk of these long hauler patients in primary care clinics, as we’ve been working with many Long COVID patients for almost a year now.

The Institute for Functional Medicine put out their first white paper on the care of COVID-19 last May. The Frontline COVID Critical Care Alliance followed with their summary of treatment in as well as out of the hospital.

Functional practitioners have been pulling research, caring for patients, learning from these patients, learning from other practitioners around the world—and repeating this process this whole time. We are now primed for helping those with Long COVID. 

Want more info about dealing with Long COVID? Check out the three-part blog series that goes in-depth about Post-COVID Inflammatory Syndrome. And follow me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube for more insights as they emerge!

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