‘Brain fog’ and loss of taste: Students experience long-term effects of COVID-19

Some individuals may experience long-term effects of COVID-19, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain and cough. A report from the CDC outlines that these symptoms can persist for weeks or months. Photo illustration by Christina Cannady | Photographer

By Erianne Lewis | Staff Writer

The CDC released a report in November 2020 detailing a list of possible long-term effects of COVID-19, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain and cough. These symptoms persisted for weeks or months, depending on the individual.

Several Baylor students reported their experiences with lingering COVID-19 symptoms.

McKinney sophomore Bryn Taunton said she, along with a few friends, got COVID-19 at the start of the fall semester.

“A few of our friends had tested positive, so we weren’t exactly sure who got who sick, but we all live together and were following all [of the] COVID-19 rules about social distancing,” Taunton said.

First, Taunton said she experienced a cough, which quickly turned into a 101 fever the following morning. Taunton eventually lost her sense of smell for about a month, and when she regained it, everything began to smell the same.

“It was just the same gross smell. I had to change all [of my] shampoos, toothpaste, Chapstick, etc. I loved the smell of coffee before getting COVID, but now the smell of it is disgusting to me, which is so sad,” Taunton said.

Taunton said she tried a home remedy to regain her smell, but the effects did not last as long as she anticipated.

“I tried the trend that everyone was doing, burning an orange and mixing brown sugar with it, then eating it to shock your senses,” Taunton said. “It sounds fake, but after I ate it, for about 12 hours I could smell things significantly more normal than before, but it wore off.”

McKinney freshman Joel Reaves said he has been experiencing long-term effects as a result of having COVID-19 in February.

“I lost my sense of taste [on] February 28 and it was completely gone until about a week ago. It’s been slowly coming back but it’s still not back to normal,” Reaves said.

Dr. Sharon Stern, medical director for Baylor University Health Services, wrote in an email traditionally, symptomatic people experience symptoms from 3-14 days. However, that is not always the case.

“We see around 40% who do not have symptoms at the time of diagnosis, but some of those eventually develop symptoms. In those with long haul symptoms, we know that those seem to last for months and may be intermittent,” Stern wrote.

Stern said students have come to the Baylor Health Center experiencing similar long-term effects of COVID-19, most notably, difficulty with concentration, also known as “brain fog.”

“We have seen students with continued symptoms of fatigue, ‘brain fog’ and some with prolonged respiratory symptoms including feeling short of breath,” Stern wrote.

Stern said there are now countless studies examining people who are experiencing longstanding symptoms in order to determine what may be causing them and to find ways to prevent or treat them.

“So far we do not have a treatment that has been shown to prevent them,” Stern wrote. “However, there are some initial studies that show that people who have long haul symptoms after having COVID benefit from getting the vaccine. Their symptoms improve after vaccination. These are early studies and need to be examined more fully, but it is intriguing.”