Long-COVID & Managing Symptoms

If you were infected with the COVID-19 virus, you may have experienced many symptoms, including fever, sore throat, muscle aches, loss of taste or loss of smell. Or maybe you were asymptomatic, which means you didn’t have any symptoms. Perhaps you did have symptoms, but you’d describe them as mild. However you’ve experienced the virus responsible for the world’s most recent pandemic, it’s common knowledge among professionals within the medical and scientific communities that certain individuals who contracted COVID-19 have lingering symptoms weeks or months after fighting off the infection. This is what we now refer to as long-COVID or post-COVID conditions (PCC).

Interestingly, individuals diagnosed with PCC could have been asymptomatic, or they could have had a mild, moderate, or a severe reaction to the virus’s initial presence in their bodies. A patient’s likelihood of experiencing PCC, then, does not seem to be directly correlated to the severity level of their symptoms. This is to say that PCC is just as prevalent in people who had asymptomatic cases as it is among people who became quite ill and may have even been hospitalized.

So, what do PCC patients have in common, other than having tested positive a significant amount of time ago? They would all tell you that they are still not feeling “back to normal.” Most PCC patients report feeling fatigued or are experiencing shortness of breath on a consistent basis. Others say they have a hard time concentrating—a symptom often referred to as “brain fog.” Other PCC symptoms include persistent headaches, heart palpitations or rashes.

If you have one or more PCC symptoms, you may be wondering what you can do to feel better. Let’s review some ideas below as they are related to the two most common PCC symptoms: fatigue and shortness of breath.

Long-COVID and Fatigue

The fatigue that long-COVID or PCC patients experience can make it difficult for them to function. They may find waking up and getting their day started quite difficult. When they do wake up, they may still feel tired. This type of fatigue is rather different from the fatigue they feel after pulling an all-nighter, or the fatigue that sets in after an intense workout. This type of fatigue affects their overall quality of life because if they feel tired all the time, their professional and personal life may suffer from it. They may, for example, fall asleep at work, or be too tired to dress up and go on a date night with their spouse.

How to Manage Long-COVID Fatigue Symptoms:

If you are experiencing PCC fatigue, try:

  • Eating well: a nutritious diet makes sure that your body is receiving all the vitamins and minerals it needs to function at its best.
  • Exercising: establishing a daily exercise routine can boost your energy and release feel-good hormones such as dopamine and serotonin.
  • Counseling: many people find that talking to a trained and counselor on a regular basis makes them feel hopeful and less alone. Firelands Counseling & Recovery is a great resource. You can meet a counselor in person or virtually.
  • Focusing on your sleep schedule: going to bed at a certain hour, and waking up at the same time every day, can help you maintain a healthy sleep schedule.
  • Staying hydrated: drink lots of water throughout the day, and be sure to limit alcohol intake, which can really disrupt your sleep.

Long-COVID and Shortness of Breath

PCC patients who have shortness of breath may not feel as physically active as they once were. Some patients cannot walk up a set of stairs, for example, without having to stop and catch their breath. Shortness of breath—also known as dyspnea—causes them to feel tightness in their chest, and this tightness can be a source of discomfort. If taking a deep breath isn’t as easy as it once was, an individual’s respiratory system may have suffered some damage from the COVID-19 infection. There are ways to manage shortness of breath and assist the heart, lungs, and respiratory system in recovering as fully as possible.

How to Manage Long-COVID Shortness of Breath Symptoms:

If you are experiencing PCC shortness of breath, try:

  • Exercising: your shortness of breath may make it difficult to exercise, but keeping fit and active is just as important as it was before you were infected with the COVID-19 virus. Take it slow, don’t push yourself, and always listen to your body. Even a five-minute walk around your yard will put much-needed fresh air into your lungs. If your shortness of breath is severe, however, you may wish to consult your doctor or a physical therapist, who can give you safe, specific exercises based on your current condition.
  • Pursed lip breathing: this type of breathing technique empties your lungs and can help you control shortness of breath. When pursed lip breathing, breathe in through your nose for a count of two seconds while keeping your mouth closed. Purse your lips as if you’re getting ready to whistle. Breathe out slowly as you count to four. Repeat as needed.
  • Taking medications or receiving oxygen therapy: Your doctor may prescribe you medications to help you manage your PCC shortness of breath symptoms, or suggest that you receive oxygen therapy. Bronchodilators, for example, are a type of medication that dilate the lung airways and offer much-needed relief. Oxygen therapy, on the other hand, typically involves wearing a nose tube or mask in order to receive extra oxygen, which helps you maintain healthy oxygen levels.

In this article, we’ve addressed the two most common PCC symptoms: fatigue and shortness of breath. Not all symptoms are related to PCC and should not be assumed as a result of having COVID-19. Other illnesses may occur that have similar symptoms – for example, a heart attack can present with shortness of breath and fatigue – and should not be ignored. Any continuous or new symptoms should be discussed with your physician. With that being said, there are many other PCC symptoms, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Brain fog
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Depression
  • Digestive issues
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Muscle pain

Whether you are experiencing fatigue, shortness of breath, any of the symptoms listed above, or a combination of multiple symptoms, your friends at Firelands Regional Medical Center recommend that you speak with your doctor to gain more insight into how to best manage your symptoms, especially if they worsen. Managing COVID-19 symptoms—especially those relating to Long COVID—isn’t always easy, so remember to take one day at a time.

On a final note, we’d like to remind you that are not alone in experiencing PCC, and with help from a support system—your doctors and nurses, family and friends, neighbors and co-workers—you can get the advice, care, and encouragement you need to move forward with a positive mindset.

If you have been dealing with long COVID or post-COVID conditions, we recommend speaking with your primary care provider. They can make recommendations based on your specific symptoms in order to provide treatment that is best for you. If you do not have a primary care physician, contact Firelands Physician Group to connect with a provider that is taking patients.