Q I feel abandoned; left languishing with tedious random symptoms since I had Covid nine months ago.
The slight shortness of breath is manageable, but what gets me down is the aching tiredness, dizzy spells, dull headaches, joint pains and, probably worst of all, my brain seems to be stuck in low gear.
It's making life miserable. My GP said to give it time. Am I just suffering inevitable tiredness which will settle on its own? What else can I do?
A I'm not surprised that Long Covid is getting you down. It is clearly having a huge impact on your physical and mental health. You are not making a fuss, and nor are you alone. Fatigue, shortness of breath and muscle aches are proving to be the most common symptoms of Long Covid.
According to the Office for National Statistics, there are an estimated two million people in the UK who continue to suffer with symptoms like yours, more than four weeks after they first got the Covid infection.
According to the Office for National Statistics, there are an estimated two million people in the UK who continue to suffer with symptoms like yours, more than four weeks after they first got the Covid infection. Stock image used
Although it can feel like you've been forgotten, in fact the NHS has set up almost 100 specialised assessment, advice and rehabilitation clinics across the UK. These clinics can be accessed via your GP, who will assess your symptoms, do investigations, including blood tests to rule out other conditions, with a view to referring you to one of the clinics.
The Long Covid teams include a GP, an occupational therapist to teach you ways to save energy and combat 'brain fog', and a physiotherapist to help with breathlessness and get you functioning and mobilised sooner.
There are also mental health professionals to support those with worries and mood changes.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is proving very helpful for those who have difficulties coming to terms with how long it is taking to get better.
Do you have mood swings, wake up with a headache, feel tired in the day and find it hard to concentrate? If so, you may have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), a condition where you stop breathing for 10 seconds or more while asleep. OSA is common in men, but women can develop it after the menopause. The main drivers of OSA are age and being overweight. If you think you (or your partner) has OSA, see your GP. You may be offered a gum shield-like device that holds your airways open while you sleep. For many it is life changing, returning their energy and bringing them back to life.
The team also gives advice for general wellbeing, which is just as important for overall recovery, promoting repair and rebalancing the systems in the body to work in harmony again. This includes sleep advice, as well as yoga for its calming effects and gentle stretching of muscles, and mindfulness for focusing on the moment, rather than worrying about the past or future.
A healthy immune system is also important to aid recovery.
A balanced Mediterranean diet including olive oil and oily fish such as salmon and mackerel twice a week, will provide all the vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants necessary for cellular repair and calming inflammation.
A recent study in the journal Gut found people who suffered from Long Covid had less diverse and healthy microbiomes than those who were infected but recovered fully. Friendly gut bacteria can be topped up by eating fermented foods such as natural yoghurt, kefir or sauerkraut, or a daily probiotic capsule.
The Long Covid teams include a GP, an occupational therapist to teach you ways to save energy and combat 'brain fog'. Stock image used
Thankfully the Long Covid clinics are very knowledgable and can aid recovery.
Try 'exercise snacking' to get fitter
According to the Journal Of Aging Research, even a small amount of activity — 'exercise snacking' — can benefit your health. Simply doing jumping jacks in front of the TV, taking the stairs not the lift, or just getting up from your chair every 30 minutes can be enough to improve your cardiovascular health.
Set a short realistic time like 20 seconds to do squats or planks. Aim for four exercises. You don't even need to get your Lycra on!
You can write to Clare at [email protected] or Daily Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT.