Life after COVID-19: Duration of immunity, fear of reinfection among key concerns after recovery

Since COVID-19 is a new disease and the world is still learning about it, there’s no consensus as of now on how long immunity against COVID-19 lasts.

Myupchar December 07, 2020 12:22:59 IST
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Life after COVID-19: Duration of immunity, fear of reinfection among key concerns after recovery

COVID-19 crisis grips the world. Image courtesy Banc de Sang i Teixits/Wikimedia Commons

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the entire world’s focus has been on taking appropriate measures to control the spread of the disease as well as the creation of drugs and vaccines that can help treat the diseased and at-risk populations. But as the global community continues to fight against this viral infection, caring for those who have recovered is also equally vital.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that most people with COVID-19 experience mild to moderate disease, while 10-15 percent cases progress to severe disease and 5 percent become critically ill. Typically, it takes people two to six weeks to recover from COVID-19 . For many people, some symptoms of COVID-19 continue to linger for or recur weeks or months after the disease - this can even happen in people with mild disease. So, while patients recovered from COVID-19 may not be infectious to others, they may still develop medical complications that can have a lasting impact on their health.

It’s due to this reason — and the rising concerns about long COVID — that most people who have recovered from the disease continue to have major questions about how to lead their lives. The following are some such essential questions those who have made a full recovery often want to know the answers to.

1. How long will my immunity against COVID-19 last?

Since COVID-19 is a new disease and the world is still learning about it, there’s no consensus as of now on how long immunity against COVID-19 lasts and it simply cannot be predicted with any certainty at this point in time. For example, a study based in the UK in July revealed that COVID-19 immunity does not last more than three to four months, while another published in the journal Immunity in October suggests that the same may last for at least five to seven months. With no consensus or method of easily predicting immunity, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not take your immunity against COVID-19 for granted after recovering from the disease once.

2. Which health parameters should I continue to monitor after recovery?

The WHO says that even though much is still unknown about COVID-19 , studies show that even having a mild form of the disease can have a lasting impact on your body. Not only can this disease cause damage to the heart, lungs, brain and nervous system but it can also lead to mental health issues and musculoskeletal problems like joint pain, muscle pain and fatigue. A study in The BMJ reveals that recovering patients should regularly monitor their temperature, oxygen saturation, blood pressure and get a chest X-ray in case of persistent or progressive respiratory symptoms. They should also monitor their dietary intake, get enough sleep and rest and try to get some physical activity and exercise into their routine without tiring themselves out.

3. Can I get infected with COVID-19 again?

As with immunity, the jury still seems to be out on this one. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that based on what we know about viral infections, even other coronavirus es, some reinfections are bound to happen. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) says that if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and have made a recovery once, you may have some immunity but this does not guarantee that you won’t get infected again. So, it’s best to self-isolate and get tested once more if symptoms of COVID-19 show up again. You should also self-isolate if you live with someone who is showing symptoms and get tested as soon as possible.

4. Do I have to continue taking all precautions?

As mentioned before, reinfections are quite likely since how long your immunity against COVID-19 will last cannot be predicted. This means you have to continue to take precautions like washing your hands frequently with soap and water, wearing a mask whenever you step out and social distancing with just as much care as those who haven’t been infected yet. Staying well away from crowded places is also recommended.

5. When can I go back to work or travel?

Getting at least two negative results on a swab test may suggest that you don’t have COVID-19 any more but recovery can be a long process after the disease. This may play a role in when you get back to work or travel. Since many workplaces are continuing with work from home for most employees, you may not need to physically return to work after you’ve recovered from COVID-19 . However, if you do not have work from home as an option then, apart from two negative tests, it’s best to only return to work or travel in any way after a complete absence of fever for three full days, a complete lack of use of fever medication and improvement in other symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath.

For more information, read our article on Long COVID.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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