What We Know About Long Covid and How to Manage It
In the middle of 2020, more and more stories began appearing about patients that had continuing ailments from Covid-19, even though, technically, they were no longer infected. These individuals were reporting significant ongoing symptoms such as shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain, fatigue, and brain fog, among other issues. As we now know, these symptoms of “long Covid” could remain weeks and months without improvement, some patients reporting ongoing, seemingly permanent disabilities without a known cure. It’s estimated today (as of April 2021) roughly 150 million people have been infected with Covid-19 worldwide, and it’s believed roughly a third of those who survive the immediate infection period will suffer from these lingering effects of the disease. And that number will only keep climbing as cases worldwide continue to mount.
What We Know About ‘Long Covid’
The term “long Covid” was first used on Twitter in May 2020, by Dr. Elisa Perego as a hashtag to describe her own experience with the lingering symptoms of the disease, long after infection had passed. What we know now is that the virus that causes Covid-19 can damage a variety of organs as it infects the body, creating scarring and inflammation that produce such ongoing chronic ailments. And it’s not just those who have severe cases either. Long Covid can happen to anyone who has been infected (including every age group), whether the symptoms are severe/life-threatening, mild, or even those with no symptoms at all. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people with “long Covid” have reported experiencing different combinations of the following symptoms:
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
- Loss of smell or taste
- Dizziness on standing
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Joint or muscle pain
- Depression or anxiety
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities
Even today, there is very little accurate data about what percentage of individuals who get Covid 19 will suffer from Long Covid. But according to one study, of a group consisting of mostly outpatient with mild cases, about a third of those continued to have lingering effects. Another study in China suggests that reported that, among more severe cases (hospitalized COVID-19 patients), about 76 percent had at least one symptom that persisted 6 months after acute infection, mostly fatigue or muscle weakness. What’s worse, a recent study suggested that long Covid patients had a greater probability of dying from the disease-related issues, up to 6 month after infection.
How to Manage Long Covid
Not all is lost, however, and there are ways to help manage post-COVID conditions. Indeed, the biggest ally might be time, as many patients with these symptoms are steadily getting better as the body heals. The CDC recommends talking to your healthcare provider about options for managing or treating symptoms that are ongoing. The good news: Many post-COVID care clinics are opening at medical centers across the United States to address such lingering needs. The best way to avoid long Covid, is, of course, to not catch the disease in the first place, get vaccinated, and to wear a mask. If you do have symptoms here a few things you can do generally:
- Eat right. A good diet will help the body heal faster. Nutrition is the key in many cases to reversing aging in cells, providing immunization from other diseases, and helping keep your body strong. Common recommendations for diet aren’t secrets, and include green vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, and superfoods such as avocados, green tea, or other anti-oxidants.
- Get rest. This is especially true if you’re constantly fatigued. Getting sleep also helps the body heal and recharge. If you are constantly tired but do feel up for walking, experts recommend you do so only in a limited fashion. Under normal circumstances, exercise is generally good for the body but its effect with long Covid is still unclear.
- Using over-the-counter medications to manage pain. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) generally work on managing any chronic pain but follow directions on use.
- Get a Medical ID. In the case of lingering conditions, we’d also recommending getting a LIFEID medical ID, which can help emergency medical responders know your medical history should you become incapacitated from any lingering long Covid-related issues. A medical ID can be scanned and reveal any past medical conditions – for example, whether you were infected with Covid-19 or had any long Covid symptoms. Such information can the difference between life and death, for example, if a responder can diagnose your condition quickly.
Of course, if you continue to have severe symptoms – like moments of difficulty breathing or heart-related conditions – don’t hesitate to call a doctor and/or visit the emergency room. Medical experts today recognize the symptoms around long Covid and are learning more every day.
At LIFEID, our goal is keep you and your loved ones healthy and safe. That’s why we recommend one of our medical ID bracelets, and Apple Watch and FitBit sleeves, which can speak for you in the case of any emergency. With LIFEID you get your own free user dashboard and connect your medical profile to one of our LIFEID products. LIFEIDs let professionals know if you’re at greater risk for particular diseases or conditions, should you be incapacitated or unconscious.