If you tested positive for COVID-19 in the past few months and have since recovered, but still have lingering symptoms, you may be considered a COVID-19 “Long Hauler.” A COVID Long Hauler is a person of any age who is still experiencing COVID-19 symptoms for several weeks or months. These individuals test negative for the virus, but still feel sick, or not like themselves. Approximately 25-35% of people who had previously contracted the virus, can experience lingering symptoms and other side effects of COVID-19.
A study published last week in Nature found that people with more severe initial infections are at greater risk for long-term complications. NPR reported that those who still had COVID-19 six months later were found to be at a higher risk of new onset heart disease, diabetes, mental health disorders including anxiety and depression, substance use disorders, kidney disease and other problems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list the most commonly reported long-term symptoms as: fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain, and chest pain. Other symptoms include brain fog, depression, muscle pain, headache, intermittent fever, and heart palpitations. Long-haulers are typically not contagious.
The reason why long haulers continue to feel the effects of COVID-19 is unknown, but one common theory is that they still have a small amount of COVID-19 in their bodies.
According to Louise Weadock, founder of ACCESS Nursing Services, “Lingering COVID-19 symptoms can be very scary and cause profound anxiety and depression. It is a universal responsibility to offer our support and compassion to anyone still experiencing COVID symptoms.”
Weadock suggests the following ways that you can support patients who are still experiencing the long-term symptoms of COVID-19:
- Validate Their Feelings: Due to the lack of research that exists surrounding the long-term side effects of COVID-19, these patients grow scared and frustrated. Remember to let these patients know that you are there for them and give them time to express their concerns to you. Your validation of their experience is very important.
- Expand Their Network: Consider organizing a virtual support group for long haulers. Talking to other patients going through similar situations can help patients feel less isolated and will have a positive impact on their mental health.
- Encourage a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle: To flush C19 cells out of your body, a patient should follow the 3-F’s; fluids, fiber, and fight. Making healthy choices, such as eating fruits and vegetables and making time to exercise, will help boost a patient’s immune system. In addition, lemon water and sleep are important for a successful recovery process.
- Find the Right Recovery Program: It is important to help patients pinpoint which long-term COVID-19 symptom is affecting them the most, so that the issue can be combated symptomatically, consistently, and directly.
- Know the Signs That Require Emergency Intervention: Continuously research the latest developments on COVID-19 and take time to educate your caregivers on symptoms and warning signs. If you notice any worsening symptoms, contact a physician.