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Treating long term COVID-19 symptoms

Most people who survive COVID recover in a few weeks, while others experience ‘long COVID’, in which symptoms can stay for months on end. 

People who struggle with COVID symptoms for a prolonged period refer to themselves as ‘long hauliers’. 

The phenomenon is called ‘long COVID-19’ or ‘post-COVID-19 syndrome’. It is estimated to affect 25-30% of people who have had the disease. Medical professionals are still assessing the causes, effects and treatments for these types of cases.

 Dr Matthew J. Ashley, a neurologist at the Centre for Neuro Skills, told Healthline, “There are lots of emerging and serious long-term consequences of COVID-19 that relate to the illness. But they are separate and distinct things such as stroke, heart attack, anoxic brain injury, Guillain-Barré syndrome, pulmonary embolism, DVT, and more”. These happen in some patients because of COVID-19 and its consequences.”

“Then there are the unfortunate people who end up spending weeks in the hospital and ICU who experience associated complications from that, including post-ICU syndrome, PTSD, or the like,” He added. “Whether this is part of the ‘long haulier syndrome or not, it certainly causes significant long-term consequences for people”.

It certainly deserves attention. 

Common long haul symptoms

The most common long term symptoms include shortness of breath while exercising, and altered smell and taste senses. Lingering headaches, joint pains, coughing and ‘brain fog’ are also reported. 

The described symptoms link to cognitive fatigue, as well as focus and attention difficulty are not dangerous, but still affect quality of life. Fatigue can impair your daily functioning. Simple things are more difficult, like paying bills moving around in your living environment, weekly shopping and parenting or just sending emails.  

The elderly and people with serious comorbidities are most likely to have long-term COVID-19 symptoms. 

However, otherwise healthy and young people can feel unwell for weeks to months after the infection. 

Common lingering symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain
  • Memory, concentration or sleep problems
  • Muscle pain or headache
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Fever
  • Dizziness when you stand
  • Worsened symptoms after physical or mental activities

Long COVID can also cause organ damage. It doesn’t only affect the lungs, but the heart and brain are also damaged. 

Even people who experience very mild COVD have damage to the heart muscle and increased risk of heart failure or other future heart complications.

Dealing with the symptoms

The best way to treat long covid is, with the help of a medical professional, to treat each symptom for what it is. Rest frequently, and make sure to take the usual precautions of washing hands and wearing a mask. Ensure that you don’t get reinfected. Take your vitamins and keep your general health and immune system strong. 

If you are exhausted, figure out the amount of sleep you are getting daily. Some individuals find it hard to stay asleep once they fall asleep. If this is the case for you, revisit your sleep routine.

Getting back into exercise can be a challenge. Take small steps, and don’t overexert yourself. Listen to your body. Try using a phone app. It will chart your physical activities, and you will better understand how much you are doing. Be careful about what exercises you do, especially if you have respiratory issues. 

Yoga and partial push-ups can help with controlled breathing. With respiratory symptoms, you need to allocate your energy wisely. If you push yourself too much, you may aggravate matters. Instead, slow your pace and rest often.

 If your toes or legs swell, elevate your legs for 15-20 minutes a few times a day. 

Over-the-counter meds can also deal with individual symptoms. Headache tablets, menthol rubs for easy breathing and throat lozenges for oral pain etc. 

When should you talk to your doctor?

If you don’t want to visit your doctor in person, there are telehealth options. Either way, arrange a visit if you have any questions about the post-COVID-19 syndrome. They can assist with recovery methods.  

If you have extreme pain or blood clot symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. A blood clot can lead to a pulmonary embolism or stroke. Seek medical attention if:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Rapid weight loss or gain
  • Inability to eat or drink
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Severe fatigue

Trust your instincts

 The research of COVID-19 is still in its infancy. This means that ‘long haulier’ syndrome and its symptoms are still under examination. 

Researchers remain unclear on which additional difficulties will arise with COVID-19 and post the infection.

If you feel that your extended symptoms are worsening or something new has come up, speak to your physician and get a check-up immediately. It is better to trust your gut than waiting until the last minute.

Affinity Health makes it more affordable for you to get professional medical assistance. 

Finding your nearest GP is as easy as going to Affinity Health’s website and clicking on the Find a Doctor tab. You should see this tab under client resources. Then type in your city or town. 

 

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