Long COVID is not medically definitive but a term that describes a portion of the population struggling with symptoms for weeks or months after being infected with COVID-19, not just those who were seriously ill.
Fatigue is the most common, but breathlessness, chest tightness, brain fog, gastrointestinal issues, joint pain, headaches, and vertigo are other reported manifestations, ranging from mild to debilitating. For many, the psychological effects are profound. Some people are still suffering symptoms seven months after infection, and those who had a mild illness at the start can have worse ongoing symptoms than patients who needed intensive care treatment. Meanwhile, some people are living with symptoms that move around the body.
Researchers from the National Institute for Health Research who reviewed the available evidence said ongoing symptoms examined reports from people of all ages and backgrounds. While most cases of coronavirus resolve in 3-4 weeks, long COVID is a reality for a lot of COVID-19 patients. Also referred to as post-COVID. It can last for several weeks and impact recovery in the long run.
Post-multiplication viral debris can cause fatigue. The body’s response to a virus can be overdriven, tiring the system. Some say fatigue and exhaustion take the longest to recover from infection. So, give your body plenty of rest and fluids to re-energise it. Maintain a healthy diet and avoid chores after recovery. Working too hard will only worsen the situation. After COVID fatigue, people experience lethargy, muscle ache, pain and exhaustion.
Again, increased inflammation in the body from COVID-19 can cause body pain. Muscle pain is caused by virus-induced damage to muscle fibres and abnormal tissue breakdown in some COVID patients. Cough, one of the most common COVID symptoms, can last for five to six weeks or longer if the virus is still present in the upper respiratory tract.
Coughing can be dry and productive, causing more stress to the respiratory tract and throat. Steam inhalation, saltwater gargles, herbal teas, and a vitamin-C-rich diet can help you recover faster. Shortness of breath or pain or discomfort while breathing can indicate worsening COVID symptoms. It may be a long-term issue affecting their quality of life for many long-haulers.
Brain fog, confusion, delirium are some of the common ways COVID-19 could impact your brain and make it age by at least ten years, studies say. They also make for some of the most commonly recognised post-COVID symptoms, which could degrade the quality of life for some with severe symptoms.
Many people believe that brain fog and other symptoms of post-COVID brain damage are signs of mental illness, which is why doctors stress the importance of post-COVID brain checks and exercises. Insomnia or chronic sleep issues are another common COVID-19 symptom; nearly half of the recovered patients complain the same. Psychiatrists are also seeing recovered patients with sleep issues, fear and panic, leading to sleepless nights. Meditation, calming teas, and rest can help reduce stress and rehabilitation. If these issues become too frequent, patients should seek help.
People who suffer from anosmia and loss of taste find it challenging to regain this vital function for weeks or months. Smell training is a non-pharmaceutical therapy that helps patients regain their smell and taste. Long covid is not just people recovering from intensive care. Even mild infections can cause severe health issues.
To conserve energy, avoid overdoing it and get plenty of rest. Think about what you need to do and what can be put off, and plan your days accordingly. If you are not recovering as quickly as you would like, ask your hospital team or doctor for assistance.
The writer is a gerontologist and a public health specialist.