THERE will be a rise in the number of people suffering “debilitating” long-term effects of a Covid-19 infection, academics warned, as they said that so-called long Covid could actually be four different syndromes.

Some people are still suffering symptoms seven months after having the virus but cannot access help due to a lack of distinction between long covid symptoms.

Researchers found people who had mild symptoms can have worse ongoing symptoms than patients who needed intensive care treatment - and even children can suffer.

Meanwhile, some people are living with a “rollercoaster of symptoms” that “move around the body”.

Researchers from the National Institute for Health Research who reviewed the available evidence said ongoing Covid symptoms examined reports from people of all ages and backgrounds.

They said more work is needed to help those who are suffering as they said that many are “not believed” when they seek help.

Ongoing symptoms can include breathlessness, chronic fatigue, “brain fog”, anxiety and stress while others may have suffered permanent organ damage.

Some have reported “floating” symptoms where an illness linked to one part of the body, such as the respiratory system, the brain, cardiovascular system and heart, which then becomes less intense before new symptoms are felt in a different part of the body.

Such a wide range of symptoms, and different presentations of illness, mean that it is hard for doctors to diagnose, which means that it is equally difficult for patients to access the appropriate care, they added.

They also said that they did not like the term “long Covid” because it may mean that some patients who are struggling with ongoing after-effects are being missed.

Ongoing Covid may not be one illness but four different syndromes, they added.

These have been broadly categorised as: post intensive care syndrome, post viral fatigue syndrome, permanent organ damage and long term Covid syndrome.

Some may suffer these at the same time or experience mental health problems.

They called for anyone who believes they are suffering long-term after-effects to be logged as such in their NHS records, and the health service should adopt an approach of a working diagnosis to help those in need.

Dr Elaine Maxwell, review author, said: “We heard from people who are still unable to work, study or care for dependents several months after their initial infection.

“We believe that the term ‘long Covid’ is being used as a capsule for more than one syndrome, possibly up to four. The lack of distinction between these syndromes may explain the challenges people are having in being believed and accessing services.

“Some people experience classic post critical illness symptoms, others experience fatigue and brain fog in a way that’s consistent with post viral fatigue syndrome.

“Some people have clear evidence of permanent organ damage caused by the virus, particularly lung damage and heart damage."

But a significant group have symptoms that do not fit any of those three categories, reinforcing the need for further research.

“There is likely to be a rise in the number of people with long Covid in coming months,” she added.

“People without a clear diagnosis told us they’re often not believed by health services.

“Those who have been diagnosed and not always recognised in other parts of the service."

She added that some people with a mild infection may have worse ongoing symptoms that those most critically ill while some people who were in intensive care have no ongoing symptoms.

Health officials have estimated that 60,000 people could be suffering with long-term after effects of Covid-19.

Claire Hastie, founder of the Long Covid Support Group, said: “The report highlights the immense complexities and wide-ranging impacts of long Covid, physically, psychologically, financially and socially – even on those who were not admitted to hospital.

“Recognition of the difficulties many find in accessing health services is crucial to address this and secure help for those experiencing debilitating symptoms.”

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “While this is still a relatively new virus and we are learning more with every passing week, it is now clear that it can have a major impact on the lives of patients and NHS staff are working hard to respond effectively, with new specialist centres for long Covid, to meet these new patient needs.”