Recovering from the coronavirus is different for everyone. While some people feel back to their old selves fairly quickly, others can experience a wide range of ongoing health problems that may last weeks, months, or years. According to the CDC, 13.3% of people who have COVID will have lingering side effects for at least one month after they’ve been infected. For those who were hospitalized, more than 30% of people have reported experiencing side effects after 6 months.
Symptoms of Long COVID
Long COVID is not a one-size-fits-all condition. Many people experience health issues with different types and combinations of symptoms that can happen over a variety of timeframes. In fact, some symptoms may go away but come back again at a later time. However, most patients can expect their symptoms to slowly improve over time. Reported symptoms of Long COVID have included:
- Fatigue; may get worse after physical or mental exertion
- Difficulty Breathing
- Chest Pain
- Heart Palpitations
- Brain Fog
- Sleep Issues
- Change in Smell or Taste
- Mood Disorders
- Stomach Issus
- Joint or Muscle Pain
- Changes in menstruation
Additionally, some people experiencing Long COVID have reported symptoms that are difficult for them to explain. If this happens to you, the CDC says clinical evaluations of routine blood tests, chest x-rays, and electrocardiograms may be normal.
How to Manage Symptoms of Long COVID
If you are experiencing lasting long COVID symptoms, talk to your doctor about how it can be treated. In addition to their recommendations, these suggestions from the British Heart Foundation may provide additional relief.
1. Fatigue and Difficulty Breathing
Although it can be frustrating not to resume your active lifestyle, it’s important to pace yourself in order to avoid over-exertion. Taking breaks during tasks can help you rest before you become exhausted. However, don’t stop doing activities that make you feel breathless because it can cause the body to become weaker. Instead, gradually increase the amount of exercise you do; start with short walks or simple exercises and build up slowly. Based on your energy levels, decide which time of day is best for you to do more difficult activities.
2. Support Your Mental Health
Some days will be better than others. Establish a routine that you can stick to each day to help promote a positive mood and sense of stability. Maintain physical activity and connect with friends and family regularly to help you feel happy and give you a support system.
3. Brain Fog and Trouble Concentrating
It’s very common to experience memory issues, difficulty concentrating, and forgetfulness with Long COVID. Taking notes during meetings, while you’re with friends, or during appointments can help you remember important dates and information. At the end of the day, make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
Your diet can play a big role in your brain health. Following a Mediterranean diet, which relies on lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and olive oil, has been proven to support overall brain health. Limiting your alcohol intake or eliminating it completely is suggested while you’re experiencing these symptoms.
4. Joint and Muscle Pain
Flexibility exercises like yoga and tai chi and strength exercises using weights or resistance bands can help relieve joint and muscle pain. Before you start a new exercise routine, always check with your doctor first.
Federal Resources for People with Long COVID
Depending on your symptoms, Long COVID may be considered a disability if it substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as caring for oneself, performing manual and physical tasks, and working. The Office of Disability Employment Policy has a thorough list of resources about your options.