When COVID Won’t Take a Hint: Treating Symptoms of Long COVID

October 10, 2022

When it comes to being sick, most of us can endure a week or two of feeling run down with a fever and a cough. But what if that feeling persists for weeks and even months?

This is the unfortunate reality for people who develop Long COVID.

After their initial COVID infection, some people continue to have persistent symptoms that just won’t go away — or they go away and then come back after a few weeks.

One in every five people who get COVID will eventually develop symptoms of Long COVID — symptoms that can disrupt your quality of life and even your mental health, according to 2022 data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Although more research is needed as we make our way into year three of the pandemic, there have been some promising breakthroughs when it comes to treating Long COVID.

What does Long COVID treatment look like?

Since there’s currently no cure for COVID, there isn’t a cure for Long COVID either. This means rather than curing the virus, researchers and healthcare providers are focusing on managing symptoms caused by Long COVID.

Long COVID symptoms can impact many parts of the body and often require a comprehensive approach to treatment. Below are a few ways some of the most common symptoms are being addressed.

Shortness of Breath and Other Respiratory Symptoms 

Breathlessness is a common long COVID symptom along with cough and inflammation of the lungs. Various tests are available, including an exercise tolerance test to evaluate the severity of breathlessness. Monitoring blood oxygen levels with a portable pulse oximeter (some smart watches can even do this at home) and chest x-rays can also be helpful when assessing respiratory or pulmonary concerns.

The Mayo Clinic recommends lifestyle modifications including avoiding extremes in temperature and exercising to reduce shortness of breath. If you smoke cigarettes, you should try quitting as well.

Breathing exercises, going to pulmonary rehab, and finding positions to sit in that help you breathe more easily are all ways to manage respiratory symptoms related to long COVID.

Fatigue and Post-Exertional Malaise

The most common symptom of long COVID is probably fatigue and if you’ve ever suffered from fatigue — you know how frustrating it can be to treat. It’s not as simple as getting some extra sleep or taking a day to rest. This is also true when managing post-exertional malaise which is a frequent symptom seen with long COVID.

Experts often refer to management strategies used with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) when managing long COVID fatigue since the symptoms often overlap.

One of these strategies is managing exertion. By finding and staying within your personal exertion limits, the severity of fatigue and other symptoms can be reduced. This is sometimes called staying within your energy envelope.

Another strategy is activity pacing, where you take frequent breaks in between tasks to reduce fatigue and overexertion.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be helpful in treating fatigue although studies have had mixed results as far as how useful it can be.

Cognitive and Mental Health Symptoms 

In addition to CBT, individual and group therapy can help address cognitive changes related to long COVID. These changes are often called ‘brain fog’ and can make it difficult to focus at work or remember tasks.

Occupation, speech, and language therapists can be great resources when working through cognitive dysfunction related to long COVID. The Mayo Clinic encourages stress management techniques, learning coping strategies, and keeping a diary of things that trigger brain fog as ways to manage any cognitive changes.

Is there a medication to treat long COVID?

Medications are used in long COVID symptom management, but there isn’t a drug that can cure long COVID. While there are no specific long COVID medications approved for use, medications to address pain or any imbalances in vitamins or electrolytes as well as support mental health can help reduce symptoms of long COVID.

Clinical trials are ongoing when it comes to a specific drug or therapy for long COVID symptom treatment.

Long COVID Resources

Although long COVID may appear to be an overwhelming scenario to find yourself in, the good news is there are several ways to find support when addressing your symptoms. While research is ongoing for specific treatments, there are steps you can take to reduce how severe your symptoms are and how much they impact your day-to-day life.

Connecting and talking with other people about long COVID through support groups can be helpful for both mental health and as a way to share helpful resources.

Working with a healthcare professional focused on long COVID treatment is another way to improve symptoms.

Since making a trip to the doctor’s office may feel impossible if you’re struggling with chronic fatigue and other symptoms — telehealth and app-based support are great ways to access specialists.

The On/Go Advanced Care Toolkit provides digital support for those with COVID, including long COVID and its resource materials are completely free to access. You have access to online resources including telehealth visits with a doctor who can provide an individualized assessment and even prescribe medications as needed.

The Advanced Care Toolkit is your personal COVID survival guide.

Whether you’ve had COVID, think you have developed long COVID, or have been able to dodge COVID altogether so far — the On/Go Advanced Care Toolkit is your go-to app for resources from at-home COVID testing to long COVID treatment solutions.

To speak to a long COVID specialist today, download the app to get connected.

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