Those infected with COVID-19 generally recover over time, especially under the Home Recovery Programme. However, if your initial infection was weeks or months ago, yet you are still experiencing the symptoms like shortness of breath and fatigue, you may be among those who have long COVID.
Chronic COVID or long-haul COVID is a condition wherein affected individuals experience the long-term effects or symptoms of the infection and are not 100% fully recovered. Feeling fatigued and dealing with shortness of breath can be frustrating for those with long COVID. So, how can these effects linger, and what are the ways to feel better?
Understanding long COVID
Although long COVID does not have a universal clinical definition, the CDC states that some of those infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus may experience its long-term effects, classified as post-COVID conditions or long COVID.
Research on long COVID and its impact is still ongoing, but there are a few known facts about it:
- Those infected with COVID-19 can experience long COVID, even persons who only experienced mild symptoms or none.
- Long COVID typically manifests in persons who had a severe COVID infection.
- Unvaccinated persons infected with the virus are at a higher risk of long COVID.
- It is possible to test negative for COVID-19 or not know you were infected, yet still experience long COVID symptoms.
One study showed that 1 in 8 people infected with COVID-19 would experience the symptoms up to three months post-infection. It is also possible for those reinfected for the second or third time to develop long COVID.
Fatigue and breathlessness in long COVID
Fatigue and breathlessness are the most common symptoms in those experiencing long COVID. Everyone gets tired sometimes, but fatigue is different in that you are overly tired to the point that your normal functioning is impaired.
For example, you may have difficulty waking in the morning or making it through a regular day, affecting your professional and personal life. A recent study shows that nearly 70% of those initially infected with the virus still experience fatigue 3 to 12 months post-infection.
Similarly, shortness of breath or dyspnea is when you feel your chest tightening, making taking deep breaths difficult.
If you have long COVID, everyday movements like walking around or taking a flight of stairs may be enough to get you winded. Breathlessness after having COVID-19 could also mean that the infection has caused damage to your respiratory system.
There is also a growing concern about dyspnea and the added stress it puts on your heart and cardiovascular system as it has to do more work.
For instance, when hyperventilating, your expected blood pressure and expected heart rate will be higher than that of a person breathing normally. Increases in these two could be stressful for persons already experiencing cardiovascular issues.
Treating these long COVID symptoms
Suppose you are sure that your tiredness and shortness of breath are not run-of-the-mill conditions. In that case, it is vital to confirm it first by getting an online medical consultation and speaking with a healthcare provider. For fatigue, several lifestyle changes can help manage it:
- Getting quality sleep
- Limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption
- Eating a proper diet
- Managing stress
- Regular exercise
- Taking breaks throughout the day
If you are dealing with dyspnea or other respiratory conditions 6 to 8 weeks after your initial COVID infection, it is recommended to consult a specialist as soon as possible.
Other methods to improve your lung function include:
- Regular exercise
- Oxygen therapy
- Prescribed medication
If you are ever concerned about having long COVID, do not hesitate to consult your doctor, but note that it is still challenging to pinpoint precisely how COVID has affected your body. Nonetheless, working closely with your doctor will ultimately improve your condition, but it will take some time.
If you need medical help to deal with long COVID, seek a doctor through the MyCLNQ app today. As the leading app for telemedicine in Singapore, MyCLNQ lets you consult a doctor online for any of your health concerns, engage the services of a private ambulance, and purchase medical products on your smartphone.