Wondering why you feel lousy? The answer may surprise you.
Have you been feeling sluggish and tired all the time? Slogging through the day like you’re constantly in a fog?
If so, you might be suffering from long-haul COVID-19.
Chronic fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath and a lingering deficit in taste and smell are the hallmark characteristics of long-haul COVID, said Dr. Jaqueline Ivey-Brown, an Advocate Medical Group internal medicine physician based in Oak Lawn, Ill.
Worsening depression and anxiety also are common among those with long-haul COVID, Ivey-Brown said. Other people suffer from “brain fog,” or cognitive delays where it may be difficult to find the right words while speaking. Some may also experience hair loss.
These symptoms, Ivey-Brown said, can hang around for months. Perhaps you suffered a mild case of the virus a while ago, tested positive during the winter or never got tested because you were otherwise asymptomatic. The aftereffects of COVID may still be taking a toll on your body, your emotions and your mental health.
Long-haul COVID seems to appear equally among men and women, young and old and those who were healthy before they contracted the virus and those who had underlying conditions.
If these characteristics seem familiar to you or someone you know, the first step, Ivey-Brown said, is realizing the condition is real and that you are not alone.
“If you are experiencing it, know this is not in your mind, you are not making this up,” Ivey-Brown said. “Knowing you’re not alone, it can be helpful, because you know it’s not just you.”
Since fatigue is common and generic, especially during the pandemic, people may be underplaying it, Ivey Brown said, trying to fight through it or ignoring it instead of seeking help. Take a step back and assess how you have been feeling and don’t be shy about seeking care.
People suffering from long-haul COVID symptoms should visit their primary care physician. A doctor will take a multi-pronged approach to diagnose your condition, identify medicine that may help or connect you with a therapist, Ivey-Brown said. In some cases, they may refer you to a pulmonologist or recommend a consultation with a cardiologist.
Doctors are still learning about COVID and its aftermath, Ivey-Brown said, exploring best practices and treatments.
“Even though we’re a year into it, with COVID there are still things we are learning about it,” Ivey-Brown said. “We’re also learning about how it affects everyone’s bodies, too.”
About the Author
Patrick M. O'Connell, health enews contributor, is a member of Advocate Aurora Health's public affairs team. He previously worked as a reporter at news outlets throughout the Midwest, most recently the Chicago Tribune. He enjoys playing and coaching baseball and basketball, hiking, reading, listening to podcasts, karaoke and spending time in nature with his family.