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People who get COVID-19 but don’t have to go to the hospital have a low risk of developing severe complications later, a new study says.

But those non-hospitalized patients end up making more visits to general practitioners and hospital outpatient clinics than people who didn’t have COVID-19 at all, according to the study published in  The Lancet.

The study was conducted between Feb. 27, 2020, and May 31, 2020, in Denmark by studying medical information of almost 9,000 people who tested positive for COVID-19 but were not hospitalized and about 81,000 people who tested negative. Their medical histories were followed for a 6-month period.

The people who tested positive visited general practitioners about 20% more often and hospital outpatient clinics about 10% more often than people who tested negative, a news release from The Lancet said. There was no difference in how often they visited the emergency room.

Those who tested positive had a higher chance of being diagnosed with breathing difficulties and blood clots than the people who tested negative. The people who tested positive had a slightly higher rate of being prescribed medications to widen breathing passages and to treat migraines, the news release said.

“Until now, most research investigating long-term complications from COVID-19 has been focused on hospitalized patients,” the study’s senior author, professor Anton Pottegård from the University of Southern Denmark, said in the news release. “But the reality is that the majority of people with COVID-19 are not admitted to the hospital.

“Our study finds a very low risk of severe delayed effects from COVID-19 in people who didn’t require hospitalization for the infection. However, our research provided evidence for some long-term effects that did not require hospitalization or the use of new medicines, which we found reflected in higher use of primary health-care services after infection. This highlights the need to ensure clinicians have the resources and support to manage any potential long-term conditions.”

Co-author Stine Hasling Mogensen from the Danish Medicines Agency noted the study probably underestimated problems for non-hospitalized COVID patients because it did not count people who suffered fatigue or breathing problems that didn’t require medical treatment.

The researchers called for studies of larger population groups for longer periods to determine the long-term effects of COVID-19.


The Lancet. “Post-acute effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection in individuals not requiring hospital admission: a Danish population-based cohort study”

Eurekalert. “The Lancet Infectious Diseases: Non-hospitalised COVID-19 patients have low-risk of serious long-term effects, but report more visits to general practitioner following infection”

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