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Coronavirus 'long haulers' are sick for months. This doctor is one of them

Dr. Scott Krakower says he was diagnosed with COVID-19 in April and is still experiencing symptoms today.
/ Source: TODAY

Psychiatrist Dr. Scott Krakower was diagnosed with the coronavirus in April and continues to have symptoms more than two months later, making him what’s known as a “long hauler.”

Krakower explained his experience Wednesday on the 3rd hour of TODAY, where he said though he's feeling better, he is not able to return to work.

“Each day is different. Some days are up, some days are down,” he told Craig Melvin. “I would say the mornings are better for me and then by 1 or 2 o’clock is when my voice and my shortness of breath kick in more and then it’s harder to do things.”

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Krakower, who had a newborn and a toddler at home at the time of diagnosis, lost his sense of taste and smell. He said he thought it may have been a sinus issue or something else.

“Before I knew it, everything just started to spiral downhill after that where I started coughing more and more profusely to the point that eventually I couldn’t swallow. And it was just getting really bad, and I ultimately wound up hospitalized,” he said.

Krakower hasn’t gotten a clear answer about when he will recover or whether that may happen, although he takes solace in the fact that he is improving.

“I feel good that every week that’s gone by appears to be better and better for me,” he said.

Krakower was treated by Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He gave Krakower the steroid dexamethasone, which is used to treat inflammation.

Krakower said it has helped, pointing out how his shortness of breath and trouble talking and swallowing had gotten better. “I had pretty significant improvement within the next 24 to 48 hours,” Krakower said.

“If it wasn’t for that IV, I really don’t know where I would be right now,” Krakower added.

Krakower continues to try and shake off the symptoms, a signature of long hauling. It’s a trait that has been on display before with MERS and SARS, Glatter said.

“What we’re seeing is that this is a byproduct of the inflammation from the virus itself. In other words, dead fragments of virus elicit an immune response. And as a result of this, the body reacts and produces certain types of substances that can really have adverse effects,” Glatter said.

Glatter said dexamethasone is not approved for coronavirus treatment, adding that there was a trial in the U.K. that studied its use and found it helped patients who were on “mechanical ventilation and people who needed oxygen, but those with mild illness didn’t really derive any significant benefit.”

Glatter has treated many patients who’ve seen their symptoms drag on for months and he believes there is plenty of work to be done.

“There’s a variant here we need to look at and definitely do more research, which we are doing and there are trials looking at this,” he said.