For many, getting through a COVID-19 infection was hard enough. Now, a number of people are experiencing post-COVID symptoms weeks or even months later. Also known as long-haul COVID, this after-period can be quite debilitating.
While it has its own name, post-COVID is not the first time symptoms linger post-infection. “This can happen after any severe infection. Post-COVID, what we are seeing is that you can have symptoms across a whole spectrum. It’s not just one or two things,” states Viren Kaul, MD, Chief for Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care Medicine Specialist at Crouse Health.
In fact, symptoms can exist from head to toe:
• Brain fog/trouble concentrating
• Memory issues
• Depression, anxiety, or PTSD
• Headaches and body aches
• Extreme fatigue
• Hair loss
• Shortness of breath
• Heart arrhythmias
• Reduced kidney function
• Blood clots
“We understand the COVID infection causes a very inflammatory state. For lack of a better word, your body is angry. It’s just angry and very inflamed. You put all of this together and it really can impact a number of different systems. If you’re somebody recovering from COVID and you’re feeling all of these things, it is important to tell your caregivers,” urges Dr. Kaul.
Because so many different bodily systems can be affected, treatment becomes complex. A person might need to see a handful of different specialists, depending on their symptoms.
For example, someone with shortness of breath might see both a pulmonologist to address lung issues and a cardiologist to assess the heart. If kidney issues are in play, a nephrologist may be called in. For the psychiatric symptoms, one might consult with a neuropsychiatric.
Overall, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech therapists can aid in helping people recondition and return to life as they once knew it.
“The primary care provider is central and essential here, because they can help the patient navigate and guide them towards which specialty or which service can be most beneficial to them,” notes Dr. Kaul.
Finding Our Way Out of the Pandemic
A key point Dr. Kaul wants to get across is that even if you don’t develop post-COVID syndrome, or never even become infected with the virus, we are all impacted as a society. “The effects of COVID in the population will affect us all, whether that means we have staff shortages, so you don’t get care for other diseases. Or you’re not able to go to work, so there’s an economic impact. Perhaps you have somebody in your home who doesn’t have adequate immunity to fight the virus.”
He encourages everyone to get vaccinated, and if you have concerns about vaccination to discuss them with your doctor. Research has shown that vaccination may not prevent you from contracting COVID-19, but it lessens the severity of the infection and prevents hospitalization and death.
And, most of all, Dr. Kaul wants us all to be kind to one another. It’s been a challenging two-plus years, and it’s understandable for people to be frustrated.
“I cannot stress that enough. I think your healthcare workers, patients, your essential workers or people in restaurants—everybody is going through a hard time in one way or the other. We may not understand why the other person is going through a hard time, but I think it’s a safe assumption they are. Trying to work with each other and letting cool, collected heads prevail is the way out of this pandemic.”
**To listen to an in-depth conversation on this topic with Viren Kaul, MD, click here.
Crouse News is reported by members of our Communications Team.