COVID-19: Symptoms, Long COVID, & empowering ourselves with knowledge
This article by our head doctor, Dr Enam Abood, highlights new and key information on COVID-19, particularly on the topic of symptoms and long COVID.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
In the early stages of COVID, the key symptoms associated with the virus was a continuous cough and fever. As the virus became widespread and more research was conducted, this symptom list expanded to include loss of taste and smell.
Our clinic conducted its own independent clinical audit which shows a wider variety of other symptoms. During this audit, we took a detailed clinical history from every patient who came to see us for a COVID-19 antibody test from April to July 2020. This audit revealed that there were multiple symptoms experienced by those who tested positive for COVID antibodies. This is in line with the findings by King’s College, whose study showed that there are 6 “types” of COVID-19 clinical presentations, otherwise known as symptom clusters.
Each individual cluster represents its own cocktail of symptoms. It should be noted that within this study, many of the symptoms seen in the more severe clusters are not commonly viewed as symptoms of the virus. The six clusters identified are:
- Cluster 1 – ‘Flu-like’ with no fever
- Cluster 2 – ‘Flu-like’ with fever
- Cluster 3 – Gastrointestinal
- Cluster 4 – Severe level one with (fatigue)
- Cluster 5 – Severe level two with confusion
- Cluster 6 – Severe level three, abdominal and respiratory
More details on the study can be found here.
Long COVID is defined as signs and symptoms that develop during or following an infection consistent with COVID-19, continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis. It usually presents with clusters of symptoms, often overlapping, which can fluctuate and change over time and can affect any system in the body
Long COVID affects 10% of 18 – 49-year-olds who were infected with COVID-19, increasing to 22% for over 70s. Furthermore, based on research by King’s College, the elderly, women and those that experience a wider variety of symptoms during the first week of infection are most likely to develop long COVID.
More research is being published that will better enhance our knowledge on Long COVID.
What can I do to help myself recover from the impact of Long COVID?
This depends on the symptoms you are experiencing but I hope the following advice helps:
If you have lost your sense of smell, you should use smell-training techniques to encourage your nerve endings to regenerate. When we lose our sense of smell, we make our recovery harder by stopping sniffing things, because frankly, what’s the point, right? Well, no. We need to keep stimulating the nerves that sense smell and the best way to do this is with active smell training. You can find out more about this here.
Breathlessness & loss of stamina:
I can only imagine how hard it must be to be dealing with ongoing breathing difficulties and loss of fitness. It can greatly impact our quality of life. There are several things you can do to help improve your symptoms:
- Take up breathing exercises – you can do these as a standalone activity or engage in breathing exercises associated with yoga and similar activities.
- Take up singing and humming! Even if you don’t feel you can make a nice sound, learning to sing helps you breathe more efficiently and uses more of your lungs. Try a lesson
- Speak to your doctor – if you are experiencing asthma-like symptoms, you might be suffering from post-viral asthma, in which case medication such as Salbutamol might help.
- Slowly increase your activity – it’s easy to feel disheartened because you can’t run or exercise like you used to but remember that you built up to that level of fitness over time. You’ll need to do the same again. Do your best to get walking and moving again and build up the length and intensity of your activity slowly over time.
- Steaming – breathing in warm steam can offer some relief and loosen troublesome mucus.
Fatigue & loss of energy
This is a tough one and it needs you to consider your well-being like a project. There are several things you should be doing to boost your energy and give your body the best chance to recover:
- Avoid stress – I know this is a big ask, especially if you are a parent or struggling with money. But try to exercise acceptance of a situation and focus on the solutions. Try not to worry about things that have not yet happened and are unlikely to happen. Make sure you are using the people around you the best you can – this is the time to ask for help, not power through alone.
- Take probiotics – I go on about probiotics and gut health every single day at work. Did you know, for example, that 8-% of our serotonin is made in the gut? Research strongly supports the correlation between gut health and overall mental and physical health and immunity. I recommend a high concentration of 40 or 50 billion probiotic capsules.
- Vitamin D – make sure your vitamin D level is sufficient. Get a little sun when you can but take your supplements too. I usually recommend 20,000 iu cholecalciferol once a week (available on prescription) if you are significantly deficient, to begin with.
- Vitamin C and Zinc – fantastic for immunity to prevent disease but also great for getting your immunity and energy back up to where they need to be.
- Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition – I cannot emphasise enough the importance of avoiding foods that can cause inflammation such as refined sugars and empty calories. Get those green juices in you and include fresh vegetables in your diet every single day.
- Hydration – water is your friend. It helps cell renewal and gives your body the best possible chance of functioning well. Drink 2 – 3 litres of water a day. Mix it up – I love to infuse my water with cucumber overnight and squeeze some lemon into it in the morning. Learn to enjoy the water, – it really is a miraculous and wonderful thing.
Sometimes challenges to our health come along and it can feel really unfair – because it is. It is unfair that anyone has to deal with the impact of this virus and it is unfair that you have experienced a loss to the quality of your life.
You’re allowed to feel sad and angry about this. But you’ve also got to take action. Don’t let this become your new normal. You want to be able to enjoy life again as things return to normal and you deserve to.
Take the steps today towards making yourself the number one priority in your life and kicking this thing once and for all.
Sending you all much love and strength,