Many people still suffer the long-term health effects of COVID-19, also known as "long COVID." Here are the foremost things COVID-19 long haulers need to keep in mind, as well as recovery tips.
- Take note of your symptoms.
- Some long COVID symptoms can last for months.
- The vaccine won't make symptoms worse for COVID-19 long haulers.
- Smell therapy can help long haulers recover their sense of smell/taste.
Keep reading to learn more about each item.
What are the symptoms of long COVID?
Long COVID — also known as post-acute COVID-19 syndrome — is a phenomenon where patients experience lingering symptoms for months after experiencing the illness. These range from respiratory symptoms to neurologic symptoms and include the following:
- Brain fog
- Loss of smell or taste
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Vertigo or dizziness on standing
- Joint or muscle pain
- Exacerbated symptoms following physical or mental activities
- Depression or anxiety
Some COVID-19 long haulers are even known to experience no significant symptoms while infected by the virus and only develop symptoms after recovery. The symptoms can also affect several organ systems, the most concerning being the lungs, heart, and brain. Given the seriousness of these aftereffects, it's essential to take note of your symptoms and immediately reach out to your doctor for advice and treatment.
Some Long COVID Symptoms Can Last for Months
While some symptoms usually clear up within two to four weeks, others can take months to be resolved. While the discrepancies between symptom recoveries remain unresolved, the CDC recommends vaccinations for everyone — even those who have already been infected.
The Vaccine Won't Make Symptoms Worse for COVID-19 Long Haulers
While people report feeling symptoms after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, they don't make long COVID symptoms worse. On the contrary, many long haulers report improved symptoms after receiving the vaccine, with a pre-print study from the U.K. offering additional evidence that getting vaccinated may help long COVID sufferers. This is why it's crucial to get vaccinated — it can help prevent infection and relieve long COVID symptoms.
Smell Therapy Can Help Long Haulers Regain Their Sense of Smell/Taste
The loss of the sense of smell and taste are among the most well-known symptoms of both COVID-19 and long COVID. Besides missing out on the pleasure of experiencing food and drink, these symptoms can also present safety problems, such as not being able to smell smoke from a fire.
COVID-19 long haulers are also recommended to try smell therapy, where patients are encouraged to smell essential oils like lemon, rose, eucalyptus, and cloves while thinking of good memories.
Here's how you can try smell therapy yourself at home:
Step 1: Pick a quiet spot.
Step 2: Add a few drops of your choice scent onto a cotton ball, then place it into a jar.
Step 3: Take a whiff of the inside of the jar.
Step 4: Think of happy memories you can associate with the smell.
Step 5: Repeat the process for each scent for 15-20 seconds twice a day for four to six months or until your sense of smell fully returns.
Recovering from COVID-19 doesn’t mean you're immune to reinfection, so it’s essential to get vaccinated. Learn about where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine at the St. Joseph Health COVID-19 Vaccine Information Hub.
CDC | Post-COVID Conditions
NY Times | Some Long COVID-19 Patients Feel Better After Vaccine Doses
medRxiv | Are vaccines safe in patients with long COVID? A prospective observational study
ABC 13 | Texas Family Without Sense of Smell Escapes House Fire
ABC 13 | 'Smell Therapy' Helps COVID-19 Patients Regain Their Sense of Smell and Taste
Baylor College of Medicine | Relearning To Smell After COVID-19