• The longer people live with COVID-19, the more people have started to report strange, inexplicable coronavirus symptoms that researchers are only just now beginning to get their arms around.
  • Some of the strangest include everything from clumps of hair falling out to cognitive issues that includes forgetting facts that a person used to have easy recall of.
  • More study is needed in this key area, researchers agree, as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.

Eight or so months into the coronavirus pandemic now, at least in the US, one of the things that’s still so dispiriting to so many people about the COVID-19 virus is how baffling it is. Not simply in the fact that there are still many key holes in our collective knowledge about the virus that we have yet to fill, but the reasons for the many truly bizarre aspects of the virus — such as why it seems to have such a light touch that even feels non-existent to some people, while for others it tragically destroys their body, sends them to hospital, and can take them all the way to death’s door.

The long list of coronavirus symptoms is a little like that, too. The Chicago Tribune recently interviewed Julie Sciascia-Van Horn, a 51-year-old from Bridgeview, Illinois, who reported the usual symptoms earlier this year when she was hospitalized with COVID-19 — things like a fever and severe cough. It was after she’d been discharged from the hospital, though, that the truly frightening symptoms appeared.

For starters, the soles her feet started to burn, like she was walking on hot coals. She started having weird lapses in memory, including forgetting things like phone numbers for which she used to have instant recall. The weirdest one was chunks of her hair seeming to fall out at random.

What instances like Sciascia-Van Horn’s have underscored is the following: It’s understood that we’re past the point now of merely triaging and keeping sick patients alive and locking down localities to ease the burden on hospitals dealing with COVID-19. Many people have been living with coronavirus for months now, some with symptoms that have lingered and suggest a distant recovery (leading to these people being referred to as having “long COVID”).

Scientists and researchers need to do a better job understanding the unique conditions that those people face. “It’s easy to forget that all we know about medicine and every medical treatment that has ever been developed, it’s … because a patient somewhere was suffering and needed help, needed treatment,” Natalie Lambert, an associate research professor at Indiana University School of Medicine, told the Chicago Tribune. “The only reason that we have medicine and a way of treating patients is research was done with patients in the first place.”

She is, in fact, studying the long-range effects of living with the coronavirus, and so far the indicators are a mix of the bizarre, the unexplained, and the troubling.

The unexplained symptoms inherent in “long COVID” include skin rashes, heart problems, anxiety, weird smells, insomnia — moreover, these symptoms often linger after the patient is supposedly virus-free, with no indication of when they’ll let up.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.