A lot of attention has been paid to COVID-19 warning signs and symptoms. That makes a great deal of sense. After all, if the disease can be communicated even if you are asymptomatic, everyone must watch for even the mildest initial symptoms so that we can do our part to prevent spreading it to others in our lives. However, less attention has been paid to COVID-19 disease recovery.
What does recovery look like? How long does it take? Is a full recovery possible? It’s a much more complicated picture than many think.
When Do COVID-19 Symptoms Appear?
As is the hallmark of this virus, the appearance of symptoms varies from patient to patient. For some, it takes as little as two days. For others, it might be two weeks from the time of exposure before they begin developing symptoms. However, you can still spread the virus even if you haven’t yet developed symptoms. You do not have to be running a fever or feel actively sick to transmit COVID-19 to someone else.
How Long Does COVID-19 Last?
There is no hard and fast rule here. Some people recover within a week or two. Others may experience no symptoms at all, although they can still transmit the virus to other people.
Yet others may struggle with the disease for six weeks, or even longer. Finally, the disease is fatal for some percentage of patients. Many fatalities are seen in patients with underlying conditions, but that is not always the case. Completely healthy individuals have also succumbed to COVID-19.
What Does a Mild Case of COVID-19 Look Like?
Given that 80% or more of COVID-19 cases are mild, it is important to know what this situation might look like. Sadly, there is no single picture – the symptoms vary dramatically from individual to individual, even within the same household. Some of the more commonly reported “mild” symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Dry cough
- Wet cough
- Nasal congestion
- Muscle aches
- Fever (low or high)
- Loss of sense of smell
- Loss of sense of taste
Other, slightly more severe symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
What Does a Severe Case of COVID-19 Look Like?
Serious cases of COVID-19 occur very quickly. Symptoms can spike from shortness of breath to pneumonia overnight. Serious symptoms include pneumonia, ARDS, sepsis, superinfection, and more, often necessitating a medically-induced coma and intubation on a ventilator.
What Does Recovery Look Like?
Most patients can expect flu-like symptoms to last between a week and two weeks. Many patients report that while these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, they are much stronger. Muscles ache more, breathing is more difficult, and congestion is more severe, for instance. However, some patients may need six weeks or longer for symptoms to begin disappearing and to begin recovering.
Will I Make a Full Recovery?
There is mounting evidence that even in patients who experience mild symptoms, there may be long-lasting, even permanent damage throughout the body. Lung scarring is one of the primary long-term complications of COVID-19, but there are numerous others, including:
How Do You Treat COVID-19?
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Many vaccines are in development, and more have begun testing. Some are in human trials. Also, no drug has been specified for treating COVID-19. For most patients, supportive care is all that can be done. What does this mean, though? Some hallmarks of supportive care (both at home and in hospital), include the following:
- Getting plenty of rest
- Staying hydrated
- Eating healthy foods
- Monitoring symptoms
- Using OTC medications to manage symptoms as well as possible
- Staying home to prevent spreading COVID-19
- Supplementing with oxygen (both at home and in medical care)
- Assisted breathing with a ventilator (as a last resort)
Stem Cell Therapy for COVID-19 Disease Recovery
While there is no specific drug, vaccine, or treatment specified for COVID-19 patients at this time, stem cell therapy shows a great deal of promise. It is being explored in several ongoing studies, as well.
In early May, three Miami-area patients struggling with severe COVID-19 were treated with stem cell therapy at Baptist Health South Florida. Mesenchymal stromal cells sourced from umbilical cord blood (allogeneic stem cells) were used in this treatment, and all three patients saw significant improvement in their condition. Speaking about it, Dr. Javier Perez-Fernandez said,
"I’m very excited about this treatment because I really think it is going to work. And it if works as we expect, it’s going to change dramatically the way we treat these patients."
In a much larger study, 300 patients all diagnosed with COVID-19 will receive stem cell therapy. This new study is based on a much smaller trial in New York City, where 12 patients with COVID-19 received stem cell therapy, 10 of whom were able to be taken off ventilators afterward. Speaking of the smaller trial, Dr. Silviu Itescu stated,
"The remarkable clinical outcomes in these critically ill patients continue to underscore the potential benefits."
The Right Stem Cells Matter
While both autologous stem cells (sourced from the patient’s own body) and allogeneic stem cells from umbilical cord blood and tissue have been used in stem cell therapy, the latter delivers significant advantages. Allogeneic stem cells are youthful and high energy, providing a lifetime of healing and regeneration. They are also invisible to the immune system, reducing the already low chance of a negative immune system reaction.
However, patients interested in stem cell therapy for COVID-19 disease recovery should understand that the FDA has not approved any such treatment. All stem cell therapies should be considered experimental.
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