SYMPTOMS of Long Covid are many - and varied - and can be hugely debilitating and distressing for patients, many of whom were fit and healthy before contracting coronavirus.

Long Covid is the name given to the syndrome affecting people who are still suffering symptoms of Coronavirus for 12 weeks or more after the initial infection.

The NHS lists these symptoms as: extreme tiredness (fatigue); shortness of breath; chest pain or tightness; problems with memory and concentration ("brain fog"); difficulty sleeping (insomnia); heart palpitations; dizziness; pins and needles; joint pain; depression and anxiety; tinnitus, earaches; feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite; a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat; changes to sense of smell or taste and rashes.

Several Press readers have been in touch to share their experiences of Long Covid.

And from this month, York Hospital is now treating some of the more severe cases across York, Scarborough and Whitby. Twelve patients are booked in for assessment in June and July and there are 52 on the waiting list to see a respiratory consultant and a respiratory physiotherapist.

So what is it like living with Long Covid - and what help is out there?

Here is our special report...

What the patients say:

Jon Covell, of York, said: "Some days I felt like I was dying. I spoke to several doctors by phone and one suggested it might be anxiety. I knew it wasn't. I was given antibiotics which I didn't really want to take because they had no idea what was wrong with me.

York Press: Jon Covell, Long Covid sufferer from YorkJon Covell, Long Covid sufferer from York

"So far I have had, extreme fatigue, brain fog, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhoea, constipation, skin tingles, hives in my throat and mouth, insomnia, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, chest tightness, jaw aches, muscle aches, joint aches, mouth and tongue ulcers, undigested food, dizziness and exercise intolerance.

"I have had blood tests and x-rays, all came back clear except high iron levels which are a sign of inflammation. I went to A&E three times but was sent home with painkillers. So far I have been self managing the condition because doctors don't know what to do."

Front line NHS worker Simon East, from Scarborough, said: "Long Covid is muscle pains, fatigue and shortness of breath, nerve pain, GI upset. I was fit and well before no past medical history.

"I do very little else due to fatigue muscle and nerve pains. My GP referred me to the York fatigue clinic and the Long Covid clinic at James Cook. So I am having to travel three-hour round trip for investigations."

One Press reader was concerned about her daughter: "She can't work because of ongoing symptoms. She did not get any help, plus the money worry, being on statuary sick pay, bills still to pay etc which do not help the anxiety to get over this horrible virus. People need more help."

Eliza Traves from York said: "I am in my early 50s and had Covid at the beginning of December 2020. I didn’t suffer from fatigue or brain fog but I have had aching arms - wrists to elbow - since then. The pain is constant but not excruciating."

York Press: Eliza Traves, from York, who is suffering from Long CovidEliza Traves, from York, who is suffering from Long Covid

Lorraine Clarkson, of York, said: "I had Covid in November 2020 and ever since I have moments where I'm speaking and trying to remember a simple word and I can't. It just won't come to me even though it's there 'on the tip of my tongue'. I have to apologise and explain that my ability to remember and say words. Bizarre."

What York Hospital says:

"The service for people with Long Covid is provided by a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) who identify which available services or clinics might be most appropriate for each individual.

There are a whole range of different long term health problems caused by Covid. The Long-Covid team is currently based in York but accepts referrals from across the Scarborough and Whitby catchment area.

Since the end of March 2021, we have been remotely assessing post-Covid syndrome patients via regular MDT meetings to determine the most appropriate onward services and support.

From this June, we have held a monthly face-to-face assessment clinic where patients who have been identified as suitable for this type of review will be seen by a respiratory consultant and a respiratory physiotherapist.

Those who have been identified so far as suitable for respiratory and physiotherapy joint face-to-face review is four in June and eight in July. There are 52 people waiting for their initial MDT discussion.

York Press: York Hospital which now has a special team treating severe cases of Long CovidYork Hospital which now has a special team treating severe cases of Long Covid

Waiting times will vary dependant on the patient’s symptoms. Patients are discussed at MDT prior to a clinic appointment.

The symptoms we are seeing include fatigue, breathlessness, brain fog, anxiety and depression. People are unable to do their usual activities and are having problems returning to work.

Long Covid is a new and poorly defined syndrome. Data from the Covid symptom study suggests that approximately two per cent of people will have ongoing symptoms for 12 weeks or more after their initial Covid illness. However not all of these will need referral in to the hospital-based assessment service.

Many people get better over time and their symptoms can be self-managed with support from the website or with support from their GP and other services in the community.

Hospital Covid assessment services have been set up to try to get a multidisciplinary review of more complex or severe cases which would otherwise result in multiple separate referrals to different services and specialties.

People do seem to improve over time with specialist occupational therapy for fatigue management and specialist physiotherapy support for rehab. Some people also need psychological support for anxiety and depression.

This is a brand new service for a new condition. We are constantly working to improve the assessment service, taking into account learning from the experiences of a network of other post-Covid assessment services across the country as well as the latest published research in this area.

We are continuing to work with colleagues at the CCG and in primary care to identify suitable and sustainable onward pathways for the support of patients with ongoing long term post-Covid syndrome symptoms. At present onward management pathways depend on the individual need identified and the availability of suitable existing services.

Looking ahead, we expect Long Covid to be a significant issue for the NHS."

NHS England says:

The exact number of people experiencing Long COVID symptoms is unclear. Research into the prevalence of the illness is ongoing, but there are currently an estimated 60,000 people in the UK thought to be experiencing Long Covid, although this is likely to be higher and will grow as coronavirus infection rates rise.

York Press: Long Covid patients are still experiencing symptoms some 12 weeks after being infected with Covid 19Long Covid patients are still experiencing symptoms some 12 weeks after being infected with Covid 19

Some £10 million in additional local funding has been set aside to help kick start and designate post-Covid assessment services, including at York.

People who think they may be experiencing persistent or long-term effects of COVID-19 infection are advised to contact their GP, who will determine the appropriate course of action.

NICE guidelines:

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued official guidance on best practice for recognising, investigating and rehabilitating patients with Long Covid. The guideline makes recommendations in a number of other key areas, including:

* Assessing people with new or ongoing symptoms after acute Covid-19

* Investigations and referral

* Planning care

* Management, including self-management, supported self-management, and rehabilitation

* Follow-up and monitoring.