As if COVID-19 wasn’t bad enough to recover from, there’s another issue many COVID recoverees are dealing with: long COVID. These lingering symptoms can make getting back to yourself and returning to daily life a real struggle, even after recovering from the virus. Community Health Partners’ Medical Director Stephanie Lange offers some insight into long COVID, and what to do if you’re impacted by it.
Long COVID, more officially known as post COVID-19 condition, is simply the collection of symptoms that may arise or linger after a person has COVID. In some cases, they may be new symptoms that pop up after recovery. Or they might just seem like a continuation of your illness, even though you aren’t contagious anymore. The effects might come and go, or you could relapse after a period of time has passed.
It can be hard to deal with, especially when there’s doubt in the community about whether or not long COVID is even real. But the CDC and medical professionals across the world now recognize post COVID condition as a disability under the American Disabilities Act.
"It's very real, and patients' complaints about it are totally valid," Lange said.
One of the most difficult things about long COVID is that symptoms can be really vague. They include brain fog, changes in mood, general fatigue, and lingering lung issues. Keep in mind that in order to get a long COVID diagnosis, those symptoms can’t have another identifiable cause.
This also varies depending on the person. Generally, healthcare providers won’t make a long COVID diagnosis earlier than two months following their initial COVID case to account for recovery time. But after that, if symptoms don’t go away, it’s likely long COVID.
"Many patients are asking, 'How long am I going to feel this way?’” Lange said. “The answer is, it's variable. The good news is that the large majority of people do recover over a period of months."
Unfortunately, right now there aren’t treatments specifically for long COVID. But sticking to the basics can help you cope overall.
Be strict about sleep. Go to bed at the same time every night, and remember that you might need more rest than normal while you recover.
What you put into your body is especially important. Drink lots of fluids, and focus on healthy eating. Fruits and veggies are anti-inflammatory, so they can help reduce the inflammatory response your body is having to the virus.
Exercise is also helpful — but just remember to listen to your body. Reintegrate exercise slowly after having COVID.
And if symptoms make it hard to get back to living your full life, know that you’re not alone. According to Lange, "Patients feeling these effects are not alone. We have a lot of people dealing with Post COVID Syndrome in this community. I've written work excuses for patients and seen patients go on FMLA (federally mandated leave of absence) for it."
As you work to recover, you have the support of CHP’s providers and medical professionals. If you need guidance or support as you struggle to get back to normal and get back to work, you have help right in your community. Reach out to your nearest clinic to schedule an appointment.