A puzzling phenomenon of Covid-19 has been why some people will continue to experience symptoms for weeks or even months after declared no longer infectious. Most victims of coronavirus, approximately 80%, will have mild to moderate symptoms that resolve in about two weeks. But around 10% will continue to have prolonged symptoms that researchers have named long COVID or post-COVID syndrome. However, the more common reference to people who have fallen into this category is simply known as a ‘long-hauler.’
Why long-haulers have a longer road to recovery is not well understood. Covid-19 is still a novel disease researchers are continuing to learn about. It’s a mystery with few answers as to why some people appear to make a complete recovery fairly rapidly while others don’t. One speculation is that maybe long-hauler’s immune reaction to the virus was weaker. Another theory is that having the virus may have worsened underlying medical conditions or even caused new ones. What is known is that Covid-19 starts an inflammatory response in the body leading to a chain of events resulting in many different symptoms and outcomes for various people. And at this time, we have few definitive answers as to why.
Symptoms Covid-19 long-haulers experience
There is a wide range of long-lasting symptoms reported by long-haulers. Some symptoms may come and go at random while other symptoms are quite overwhelming making daily tasks difficult to perform.
Here’s a list of symptoms frequently reported by long-haulers:
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Muscles aches and joint pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Irregular heartbeat
- Low fever
- ‘Brain fog’ or difficulty concentrating
- Upset stomach
Advice on coping as a Covid-19 long-hauler
For anyone who has had Covid-19 and has lingering, persistent symptoms past the typical two to six weeks of recovery should let their healthcare provider be aware of this. While there are no specific, evidence-based treatments yet, it’s important to have the support and someone to seek advice from on dealing with symptoms.
Below are other tips that may be of help during this time as a long-hauler:
It’s important to stay well-hydrated, rest, focus on adequate sleep, manage stress, and eat a healthy diet.
Talk to your doctor
Tell your doctor your concerns. Keep records of daily symptoms recording their frequency, duration, and severity. This may help your doctor decide what needs further evaluation. Long-haulers may need testing involving behavioral, pulmonary, respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological health. Having a team of doctors can help provide a care path and treatment designed for you and your needs.
Manage underlying medical conditions
If you already had a chronic condition before Covid-19, it’s very important to continue good management of it. Uncontrolled diabetes or heart disease may potentially be contributing to a delayed Covid-19 recovery. Work with your healthcare team on a treatment plan.
Be careful when easing back into exercise
Returning to exercise can be challenging. Take things slowly and don’t push them. It’s prudent to take extreme caution, especially with respiratory issues, to be attentive to how you feel. Seek your doctor’s advice on what they recommend.
Dealing with fatigue
If exhaustion is a main symptom, it’s important to figure out how much sleep you are getting. Falling asleep and then staying asleep can be an issue. If you are waking up still feeling tired, work on sleep hygiene. Take it slow and listen to your body’s needs for rest.
Set doable goals
Listen to your body, and go at your own pace. Slow progress is still progress.
Reach out to family and friends
Don’t try to go this alone. Having a prolonged illness can lead to isolation. Now is the time to connect with others. It’s okay to ask for and accept any help offered with chores or errands.
Look to the future
While it’s hard to stay positive, look for things that bring you joy. Do you have a hobby or other activity lifting your spirits? Pay attention to your mental health. If feeling sad, anxious or hopeless, seek help from your doctor, a counselor, or a support group. Find your path to your future ahead of you.