The large-scale impact of Long Covid has emerged as an unforeseen consequence of Covid 19 with devastating implications for the individual, the health system, the economy, and workplaces. Long Covid presents as multisystem symptoms that persist for three months after acute infection and appears to affect as many as 10 to 20 percent of the population.
In Australia it is predicted tens of thousands of individuals with Long Covid will require treatment in the coming years. I have certainly seen an increase in the number of patients suffering from Long Covid in the past 18 months.
What are the Symptoms?
The most common symptoms of Long Covid are fatigue, breathlessness, cognitive dysfunction presenting as brain fog and memory issues as well as mood disturbance, anxiety, and depression. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg with a survey of Long Covid patients found to experience a range of symptoms including pain and inflammation, lung and heart complaints particularly chest pain and inflammation, loss of smell, headache, dizziness, and disorientation. Despite a large amount of research internationally there is still much unknown about the cause of the condition and how to treat it.
The Covid virus is known to trigger inflammatory responses in the body and in patients with Long Covid there are signs of ongoing inflammation. The persistence of inflammation after the initial infection may be due to the lingering virus which can be found up to 6 months after the initial infection in some patients.
It has been found that the presence of existing autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and persistent viral infection like Epstein Barr virus increase the risk of Long Covid.
Under the Umbrella of Dysautonomia
What is Dysautonomia? In simple terms, it is the medical term for when the autonomic nervous system (ANS) does not work properly and many post-acute COVID symptoms fit comfortably under the umbrella of dysautonomia.
Dysautonomia is the dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system which
governs functions like swallowing, breathing and heart rate etc
Given the important functions of the autonomic nervous system in regulation the body’s homeostatic and immune responses it’s not surprising many people suffer from symptoms like increased heart rate, circulatory disturbances, balance issues and dizziness.
Strategies such as stress reduction, slow breathing and mindfulness that improve the tone of the vagus nerve and can reduce the inflammation and physiological dysregulation that drive the dysautonomia.
Stress Management and Sleep
Stress management and adequate sleep are essential for healing and play an important role in the immune and inflammatory processes that drive physiologic dysregulation and neuroinflammation in Long Covid. The duration and quality of sleep are also important. Studies have shown a single night of reduced sleep can reduce the body’s natural killer cell activity by 72 percent.
Debilitating fatigue is one of the most common side effects of Long Covid. One of the most important factors for improving fatigue is to get adequate rest and not overdo things. There are three key things to consider Stop, Rest and Pace.
STOP before you reach a point of overexertion as this will interfere with recovery.
REST often and before you start to get symptoms.
PACE yourself and plan to space out daily physical and cognitive activities to avoid triggering symptoms.
Triggers that can lead to energy crashes include large carbohydrate or fatty meals, caffeine, alcohol, temperature extremes and emotional or physical stress.
These are just a few things you can do if you are suffering from Long Covid. For more information, check out my article on how you can get better and begin your recovery from Long Covid.