More than half of COVID-19 survivors experience symptoms consistent with long COVID up to 6 months after recovery, data from a systematic review published in JAMA Network Open showed. Referred to as “long-hauler syndrome” it is a complex condition and one that we are understanding more about every day.
Long COVID is defined by the CDC as “new, returning, or ongoing health problems” occurring 4 or more weeks after being initially infected with SARS-CoV-2. It has been linked to over 200 symptoms. Practitioners identified two main symptom clusters associated with long COVID: fatigue, headache and upper respiratory complaints; and multisystem complaints such as ongoing fever and gastroenterological symptoms. Fatigue is experienced by 47% of patients and was the most common long COVID symptom. Other common symptoms were shortness of breath, muscle pain, joint pain, headache, cough, chest pain, modified sense of smell, modified sense of taste and diarrhea. In addition, patients also suffer from cognitive impairment (also known as brain fog), amnesia, sleep disorder, palpitations and sore throat were also common symptoms of long COVID. Less commonly reported symptoms were runny nose, sneezing, hoarseness and ear pain. Patients with long COVID also frequently reported the disease affected their quality of life, mental health and employment.
One of the key forms of treatment for long-haulers is a planned nutrition program. Nutrition and food are used as medicine to reduce inflammation, improve gastrointestinal health, rebalance the microbiome, and support the immune system, enabling other COVID therapeutics to be more effective. This is a long-term process with many variables to impact the success. You should also consider the use of nutritional supplements to assist recovery. This includes a broad spectrum of conventional medical therapies, botanicals, and other essential nutrients target specific body systems and support neurological, respiratory, cognitive, energy, and immune function for optimal recovery. Make sure to discuss supplements with your healthcare practitioner for proper applications.
Many practitioners have mixed feelings about the term “long-hauler syndrome”. On the one hand, “long-hauler” acknowledges the fact that this is not just a cold, or the flu and that people really do have protracted symptoms that have been life-altering. On the other hand, the term seems to imply that these symptoms are here to stay, and many don’t like the hopelessness that conveys. A lot of time is spent with people talking about their experience and framing expectations and maintaining a sense of hope that things can improve. This isn’t the end. This is hopefully the middle of their journey back to health.
As a post-COVID-19 recovery program patient, you should be followed for at least a year, or longer if needed. It may take that long for the story to be told, and the hope is that you recover and they don’t need any more help. And the key to recovery is to not get discouraged. It is not uncommon to fight through your recovery for six months or more.