People are affected by Covid-19 infections differently. While some test negative in a week’s time and resume everyday life, others take longer to get back to their pre-Covid lives.
Testing negative for coronavirus is the first step towards recovery as symptoms such as fatigue and cough continue for some time. These symptoms are usually resolved in a few days. But that’s not the case with everyone.
A very large number of people continue to have Covid-19 symptoms for many weeks and even months after testing negative. The phenomenon is called “long Covid” and its formal term is Post-Acute Sequelae SARS-CoV-2 Infection. As many as 40 per cent of all people who get Covid-19 are believed to be suffering with long Covid, according to a study.
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes Covid-19 disease.
How do you know you have long Covid?
You may have long Covid when your symptoms such as fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, among others, continue for more than 12 weeks after testing negative and cannot be associated with any other diagnosis, according to the Union health ministry.
Besides fatigue and shortness of breath, the most distinguishable long Covid symptom is “brain fog”. It’s an umbrella term used to refer to a range of cognitive issues such as developing an erratic memory where you forget things, lack of clarity of mind, poor concentration, inability to focus, and a persisting feeling of confusion.
Some have also described brain fog – in a simplistic manner – as mental fatigue, a mental manifestation of the overall fatigue you are suffering from.
How is long Covid different from persistent Covid?
In long Covid, you test negative but continue to have symptoms for a long time, which may evolve over time. You may not experience brain fog when you are positive but it might develop later. But the presence of these symptoms or development of brain fog does not mean virus is still in your system.
In persistent Covid, virus continues to be there in your body for a long time. In simple terms, you remain positive for a long time.
How does long Covid affect your physical and mental well-being?
Prolonged symptoms can affect your daily help. Physical and mental fatigue may hamper professional and personal life.
Studies have shown that Covid-19 also causes inflammation in the brain and deaths of brain cells. Microhemorrhages in the brain, which refers to small internal bleeding in the brain, have also been associated with Covid-19 infections.
Mental effects of Covid-19 go beyond brain fog, prolonged joint and chest pain, shortness of fatigue, and affect even a person’s dreams.
The isolation induced by the pandemic and further increased by long Covid infections have reduced interactions of people with the outside world. Some people have been cut off from the world to the extent that their mind is out of stimulus to create dreams. So they have dreams from old memories of school years or childhood or people they barely know now.
How do you manage long Covid?
The first step ought to be to get vaccinated. A study in the United Kingdom found that people fully vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines had almost 50 per cent lower chances of having long Covid.
Experts have said people should not ignore mental health issues of the pandemic. Dr James Jackson of America’s Vanderbilt University said people should take brain fog as seriously as a brain injury.
He told Medical News Today, “If people begin to think of this as a brain injury and not just as brain fog, they will be more inclined to do what we do with people with brain injuries. Namely, we refer them to cognitive rehabilitation experts who can help them. With mild brain injuries, many of these people get substantially better, but people don’t think of cognitive rehab for brain fog.”
You should seek expert care if your symptoms become severe and affect your everyday life. Besides common symptoms listed above, long Covid symptoms include sleep issues, anxiety, gut problems, depression, headache, and rapid heartbeat.
You should also adapt your lifestyle to manage your symptoms. Since you are fatigued, you should take breaks through the day and manage work hours accordingly. You should write things down and set alarms since you may forget things.