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Long Covid: What Is It And How To Deal With It?

Long COVID: What is it and how to deal with it?

So, you’ve either had COVID or been exposed to it. And for some reason, months later, you’re experiencing memory lapses, forgetting words, old illnesses are flaring up, and you’re feeling unusually fatigued. You might think it’s just fatigue that’s accumulated over the past two years. But it could be long COVID.

What is Long COVID?

This is what everyone now calls the problems that arise after recovering from COVID. They can also occur after asymptomatic infections. This means you might not even know you encountered COVID.

What do research studies say?

It has long been known that complications can arise after viral or bacterial infections. But this problem has never been as common as it is now, and it encompasses a wide range of issues. These issues can range from relatively harmless but unpleasant ones, such as hair loss, to life-threatening ones like heart attacks or strokes.

What particularly concerns people is that these problems can manifest some time after the infection. Officially, if you still have issues two months or more after recovering from COVID, it’s attributed to long COVID. Sometimes, symptoms can persist for three months after the initial onset of the disease.

Recent research suggests that this is the result of an autoimmune reaction in the blood vessels of the brain, triggered by the encounter with the infection. This explains all the symptoms because all centers that control mental and physical processes in the body are located in the brain and spinal cord.

How often do symptoms occur after COVID?

Several studies describe persistent symptoms in patients following acute COVID-19, with more than a third of them experiencing more than one symptom. Over a third of long COVID patients have comorbid conditions, with high blood pressure and diabetes being the most common.

Common long-term symptoms include:

  • Fatigue (from 15% to 87%) – can last for 3 months or longer.
  • Shortness of breath (from 10% to 71%) – can last for 2-3 months.
  • Chest pain or tightness (from 12% to 44%) – can last for 2-3 months.
  • Cough (from 17% to 34%) – can last for 2-3 months.
  • Loss of smell (from 10% to 13%) – usually lasts 1 month.

Less commonly (less than 10% of the time), you may experience problems:

Less common symptoms include joint pain, headache, dry mucous membranes, rhinitis, loss of taste, poor appetite, dizziness, muscle pain, insomnia, hair loss, sweating, and diarrhea. These problems can last from weeks to several months.

Psychological and cognitive problems:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (from 7% to 24%) – lasts from 6 weeks to 3 months or more.
  • Memory problems (from 18% to 21%) – last from weeks to several months.
  • Poor concentration (~16%) – lasts from weeks to several months.
  • Depression/anxiety (from 22% to 23%) – last from weeks to several months.

Over 50% of those who have had COVID report a reduced quality of life, and the duration of this issue is currently unknown; it could last from weeks to months.

Possible post-COVID complications include:

Information also emerges about other complications associated with past COVID:

  • Cardiovascular complications linked to increased blood coagulation can lead to the formation of clots in any part of the body.
  • Reactivation of autoimmune diseases and the emergence of new autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • New allergic reactions may occur, or old, long-forgotten allergies may resurface.
  • A cough that persists for weeks or even months may develop.
  • Reactivation of chronic, long-forgotten infections like herpes may occur.
  • New problems with the thyroid or adrenal glands may arise or pre-existing ones may reactivate.
  • Psychological disorders can worsen, especially if the condition was present before. For example, there may be an exacerbation of manic-depressive syndrome.
  • Fatigue can manifest in various ways, such as being unable to run 2 kilometres after the illness, even though you used to do it daily.
  • Your sense of taste and smell may have returned, but now it has changed.

How quickly do these problems disappear after COVID?

The speed of resolution of such symptoms depends on many factors.

  • How severe was your experience with the illness?
  • Did you have any serious pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or obesity?
  • How quickly did you begin treatment for post-COVID problems?
  • Age, diet, lifestyle, physical activity, sleep, emotional support from loved ones – all of these play a role.

Can problems simply go away on their own?

It’s possible that your body might eventually overcome the issues on its own, but it’s better not to passively wait for that. Instead, take steps to help yourself recover from the consequences of the illness.

If your immune system is unable to turn the situation around and embark on the path to recovery, the inflammatory process can gradually affect more and more of your body’s systems. The longer you live with lingering COVID without seeking help, the longer it will take to recover when you finally start treatment. The sooner you seek help, the faster you’ll recover.

Similar to recovering from an injury, you may also need rehabilitation after having COVID. For instance, it’s well-known that those who start rehabilitation earlier after a stroke tend to have a better prognosis.

How to aid recovery after COVID

If, after 4 weeks from the onset of your first COVID symptoms, you still experience any of the symptoms listed above, it’s best to consult a doctor who can comprehensively address all your issues. Since these problems can involve multiple systems in the body, the expertise of a single specialist may not be sufficient.

For regaining your sense of smell, for example, smell training may help, and you can do this on your own. However, it’s advisable to initially consult with a doctor, as the issue may not necessarily be related to COVID. Problems with odor recognition can also be an early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, for instance.

In the United States, there are various rehabilitation programs available, such as respiratory rehabilitation, cardiac rehabilitation, and rehabilitation for the elderly.

What assistance can you expect from an ND doctor for long COVID?

Ordering primary diagnostic tests to assess possible post-COVID issues.

  • Providing therapeutic treatment for nutritional deficiencies based on test results.
  • Prescribing therapies to prevent the transition of the autoimmune inflammatory process into a chronic form.
  • Designing an exercise program with gradually increasing intensity. After illness, you may not be ready for the same level of physical activity as before.
  • Each person is unique, and each case may require a unique treatment protocol for reactivating old problems or addressing new ones that arose after encountering COVID.
    • Type 2 diabetes can often be managed without medication, and these interventions can help reduce or eliminate the need for medications.
    • If you smoke and experience symptoms of long COVID, quitting smoking at this time can be the best thing for your body to recover after the illness.

The earlier you start addressing this issue, the faster you can overcome it. We don’t know if there will be people who can never return to their previous lives years later, but we can strive to minimize the number of such individuals.


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