If you were infected by Covid-19 and notice lingering effects weeks or even months afterwards, you may be dealing with long Covid. Long Covid is a condition where the effects of Covid-19 stay with you after the initial illness, even when the virus is no longer detected in the body. It can leave you feeling fatigued, anxious, moody, with muscle or chest pain, or with a loss of taste and smell. If you think you may be dealing with long Covid, here are tips and resources you need to know.
What is Long Covid?
Long Covid happens when individuals experience persistent symptoms or develop new symptoms that last for weeks or months after they initially had a Covid-19 infection. While most people who contract Covid-19 experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover within a few weeks, others continue to experience a range of symptoms that can significantly affect their quality of life. With long Covid, symptoms typically start within three months of having Covid, last for at least two months, and can’t be explained by any other condition.
The specific symptoms and their severity can vary widely among individuals with long Covid. Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, joint and muscle pain, brain fog (cognitive difficulties), headaches, loss of taste or smell, sleep disturbances, and mood changes. These symptoms can persist for weeks or months and can fluctuate in intensity.
Long Covid can affect anyone, including those who had mild or asymptomatic cases of Covid-19. It’s not yet fully understood why some individuals develop long Covid while others recover quickly. It’s believed that a combination of factors, including the severity of the initial infection, individual immune response, and underlying health conditions, may contribute to the development of long Covid.
9 Signs You Have Long Covid
- Persistent Fatigue: Fatigue that lasts for weeks or months, even after rest or minimal physical exertion.
- Breathlessness: Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, particularly during physical activity or exertion.
- Cognitive Difficulties: Brain fog, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and other cognitive issues.
- Muscle and Joint Pain: Persistent muscle aches, joint pain, and inflammation in various parts of the body.
- Chest Pain: Some individuals with long COVID may experience chest pain or tightness, which can be persistent or intermittent.
- Headaches: Frequent or recurring headaches.
- Loss of Taste or Smell: A reduced or altered sense of taste or smell may persist for weeks or months.
- Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or experiencing unrefreshing sleep.
- Mood Changes: Depression, anxiety, irritability, or other mood disturbances.
8 Long Covid Tips and Resources
1. Talk to Your Doctor
If you think you have long Covid, or your symptoms are getting worse, contact your doctor. Treatment may include a combination of symptom management, rehabilitation therapies, psychological support, and lifestyle adjustments. It’s important for individuals experiencing long COVID symptoms to consult with healthcare professionals who can provide appropriate guidance and support.
2. Advocate for Yourself
It’s important to advocate for yourself with medical professionals, especially if you’re worried they may not take you seriously. Be prepared when you talk to them. List out your questions and symptoms ahead of time so you don’t forget anything. Don’t be afraid to speak assertively and let them know what’s going on and why you’re concerned. Since the symptoms and impact of long Covid can vary so much from person to person, it’s important to figure out what’s going on in your body.
3. Look Out for Trouble
Seek immediate medical help if you experience chest pain, trouble breathing, a significant change in weight, or are unable to stay awake, eat, or drink. Your doctor may be able to help relieve physical symptoms or rule out any serious complications or underlying problems.
4. Avoid Reinfection
If you have long Covid, the last thing you want is to get infected again and make your symptoms even worse. Continue to practice caution by wearing a mask in crowded places, avoiding unnecessary travel, washing your hands frequently, and using hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.
5. Prioritize a Healthy Diet
Your diet can impact your mood, brain function, and energy levels. Aim to eat a balanced, nutritious diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, beans, whole grains, and nuts. If long Covid is affecting your mood, try fatty fish, dark chocolate, fermented foods, oats, berries, nuts, and seeds. If you’re feeling super fatigued and lethargic, fill up on oatmeal, bananas, yogurt, eggs, chicken, and avocado.
6. Limit Alcohol and Caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine can disrupt your sleep cycle and negatively impact your immune system. Caffeine may give you a short-term energy boost, but it leads to a crash shortly after, which makes things worse. Caffeine and alcohol can also both make you feel nauseous and run down, so if these are already symptoms you’re dealing with, you should definitely steer clear of both.
7. Exercise (with Caution)
Persistent fatigue is one of the most common reported symptoms of long Covid, and being active can boost, rather than drain your energy. However, you do need to be careful not to overexert yourself. Be patient and start with lower energy activities like walking or yoga. Gradually increase your activity levels while watching for any negative effects. Make sure you’re balancing periods of rest and exercise and pay attention to how your body responds.
8. Look Into Resources
If you’re living with long Covid, it’s good to know what resources are available to you. You can take a look at the latest research being done, find long Covid clinics, and learn about supports and resources at hand. Here are some helpful websites to check out if you’re in Canada or the US.
If you or someone you know is dealing with long Covid, it’s important to know the resources that are available to you. Use these tips and resources to advocate for yourself and your health.
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