Our lives have been under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic for three years. The virus has infected millions of people worldwide, among which many have been left with some long-term symptoms long after getting rid of the virus. These life-changing post-infection symptoms are usually called long COVID or COVID-19 Long-haulers.
What is long COVID
Long COVID refers to a range of ongoing symptoms that can persist in some individuals for a long time after they have recovered from the infection with the COVID-19 virus. These symptoms usually occur several weeks after the initial infection and can include fatigue, difficulty breathing, brain fog, muscle aches, and loss of sense of smell or taste. Some people with long COVID may also experience mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. The exact cause of long COVID is not yet fully understood, but it is thought to be related to the body's immune response to the virus. It is important for individuals experiencing long COVID to seek medical attention and follow the guidance of their healthcare provider.
Some common symptoms reported by people with long COVID include:
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme fatigue
- Muscle aches and soreness
- Loss of smell
- memory and concentration problems
- Chest pain
- Joint pain
- Depression, anxiety, or other mental problems
- Cough, fever, and sore throat
- Loss of appetite, stomach aches, or diarrhea
Chances of developing long COVID
The chances of developing long COVID after being infected with COVID-19 vary from person to person. The general percentage is about 3%-12% according to the statistic. It is difficult to estimate the overall prevalence of long COVID, as there are still many unknowns about it. The statics also shows that Omicron variant infections are less likely to cause long COVID, with a chance of 4.5%, compared to the 10.8% chance with Delta variant infections.
It is not yet clear what factors may increase the risk of experiencing long COVID, or how to predict who is more likely to experience these symptoms. Possible factors may include having a severe initial illness, being older, having underlying health conditions, and having certain genetic risk factors. But how and why these factors are related to long COVID remains unclear. The exact duration and severity of long COVID may be also be influenced by the individual's immune response to the virus, and their overall health and fitness level
It is important to note that while long COVID can be serious and debilitating, most infected people will recover fully and without experiencing long-term symptoms. If you have had COVID-19 and are experiencing ongoing symptoms, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider to discuss treatment options.
Prevention of long COVID
Without enough understanding of the mechanism of long COVID, getting vaccinated may be the only prevention that is guaranteed effective. The vaccines can reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, severe symptoms for initial infection, as well as post-infection symptoms.
Recovery from long COVID
Since long COVID has too many symptoms that vary with different people. The diagnosis and treatment for long COVID are both intricate, and neither has an applicable single standard. If you suspect yourself for experiencing it, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider for advice.
But there is still something you can do to alleviate most of the common symptoms.
Some symptoms of COVID-19, constant coughing, for example, can leave irreversible damage to your lungs. People with mild symptoms may also have difficulty breathing. You can do the following to free yourself from breathing problems.
Oxygen therapy: supplemental oxygen is widely used for different kinds of respiratory problems. High-concentration oxygen intake maintains your blood oxygen saturation and the normal function of your immune system, enabling better recovery. It is also good for other long COVID symptoms such as brain fog. Oxygen therapy can be done at home with an oxygen concentrator, so you don’t have to go anywhere with your fatigued body. Talk to your healthcare provider about detailed instructions before starting the treatment.
Slower your life pace: when you are infected with COVID-19, what you normally do can easily make you short of breath. It’s time to stop following that routine and lower your pace. Don’t do anything beyond your current abilities and take some rest more frequently.
Keep exercise: it is understandable that many may give up on exercise due to breathing and other problems. But you are likely to become even weaker without adequate exercise. Our muscles must be used regularly to keep their normal function as well as the blood circulation and metabolism of the body. For those who are on oxygen therapy, ask your doctor whether you need supplemental oxygen during exercise and how you should use it.
Problems with memory and concentration
A lot of people have found it difficult to memorize things or concentrate on something, which is another major symptom of long COVID. The following tips can help you with that.
Planning and note making: Sounds a little stupid but definitely useful. It may not help with your symptom directly, but it is probably the best way to prevent any serious troubles caused by your symptoms. Besides, it is always a good habit to keep everything well-planned and clearly organized.
Do exercise: We have already discussed the importance of regular exercise in the last part. In regard to memory and concentration problems, exercises can stimulate your brain and improve your mode, which helps you recover faster. Mental exercises like puzzle games are as effective as physical exercises. Additionally, associating with people, taking part in social activities, and certain types of entertainment which provide new experiences are all good for you.
Healthy diet: never underestimate the power of eating. A healthy and proper diet can be a good treatment for almost any illness. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts, are all good for your brain. Keep away from things like alcohol, which can severely harm your brain function.
Poor mental state
If you are going through mental problems like depression and anxiety, all you need to do is to talk to others. Don’t conceal all your negative feelings. Pour them into people around you. You will feel better with others’ understanding and comfort. Group exercises and social activities are also good ways to connect with others. If you don’t have many friends around you, going online is a good option. Apart from that, spending some time on your hobbies or getting to know some new stuff is also helpful. Anyway, get yourself into doing something so that you can be distracted from all the unnecessary worries and negative thoughts.