Post Covid-19 Recovery
Hopefully, we are nearing the end of this Covid-19 wave in Ireland, although we are still all aware of the hundreds of new cases and unfortunately still losing our loved ones to this dreadful disease. Whilst the numbers being hospitalised might provide some respite to all our front-line healthcare workers; even when the vaccine program is completed, it seems our fight against the SARs-CoV-2 is far from over.
Most people who have Covid-19 will recover after a few weeks or months. Unfortunately, some patients are taking a lot longer to recover. Much more research is needed but experts around the world are recognising a clinical condition people are calling “long Covid”, it may change its name in future, and some may also refer it as post covid-19 syndrome. As healthcare trusts around the globe have been overwhelmed with treating the immediate covid patients, they have not had resources to study long covid so far. This has made it difficult to estimate how many people have and may be affected but it is estimated to be anywhere between 5-10% of covid patients will experience post viral health issues, even if they had mild/no symptoms.
What is long Covid?
People with long Covid report experiencing different combinations of symptoms that may last longer than four weeks, or new ones that develop after four weeks of having Covid.
These symptoms may include the following:
- Respiratory Symptoms [Breathlessness, Cough]
- Cardiovascular Symptoms [Heart palpitations, Chest pain or tightness]
- General Symptoms [Fatigue, Fever, Vision changes]
- Neurological Symptoms [Loss of concentration/Brain fog, Dizziness, Pins & Needles, Delirium (in older patients), Sleep disturbance, Headache]
- Gastro-Intestinal Symptoms [Abdominal pain, Nausea, Loss of appetite/Anorexia, Diarrhoea]
- Musculoskeletal Symptoms [ Joint pain, Muscle pain]
- Psychological Symptoms [Anxiety, Depression]
- ENT symptoms [Tinnitus, Earache, Sore Throat, Dizziness, loss of taste/smell]
- Dermatological Symptoms [Skin rashes, Hair loss, Heat Intolerance]
We have read the many stories in the media about people in the peak fitness of their lives being totally wiped out by long covid and finding even walking a daily struggle. There has also been research in Russia, Italy and Sweden into long Covid cases in children with fatigue being the longest lasting symptom.
What can I do if I have long covid?
If you think you are experiencing long covid symptoms and have not already done so, please contact your GP for assessment. Hopefully, they will be able to assess whether your symptoms need further investigation/rehabilitation or whether you can self-manage. It may be important to keep a diary of your progress or change to symptoms over time to aid your recovery.
How long will this go on for?
As this is so new, we don’t know the answer. We are constantly learning about long covid and there may be patients who have not yet come forward with their condition. Some experts have suggested the similarities of patients who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome CFS/ME and other post-viral conditions like Glandular Fever. Healthcare budgets around the world have been so overstretched with the immediate fight but the governments need to invest in the recovery of patients as well as the economy.
How can I help myself?
- Don’t try to push yourself too hard to recover, listen to your body and let it determine what you can do
- Plan what you can do in a day, and break it into smaller chunks and find the best times when your energy levels are at their best
- Shorter more frequent rests are more beneficial than longer ones
- Find groups online of others experiencing the same thing, sometimes our loved ones cannot understand how you are feeling
- Try to eat healthily but don’t get hung up on it; everything in moderation like they say!
- If a health supplement/medicine has been recommended by your pharmacist or healthcare professional take it
- Your recovery can be like a rollercoaster, some days you feel ok, others it may be had to get out of bed – don’t let a bad day get you down
- Make notes to help you remember things – whether it’s in work meetings or medical appointments
- Try to gradually increase the exercise you do, if we don’t exercise our muscles they become weaker
- Short walks, yoga stretches, or Tai Chi may be gentler forms of exercise worth exploring
- Be kind to yourself during your recovery – be prepared that some days will be worse than others