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Written by Marion Stobie on February 12, 2021

Long-haul Covid – a discussion on long-term health consequences of Covid-19

While New Zealanders have not suffered the same degree of impact of the Covid-19 disease itself that other nations have, it is worth acknowledging that just under 2000 New Zealanders have had Covid-19 and some of that number may be living with post-Covid unwellness. This unwellness needs to be recognised and the patients supported.

In the esteemed medical journal The Lancet, a recent study has found that 6 months after leaving hospital:

  • 76 percent still had one or more symptoms 
  • 63 percent had fatigue/muscle weakness
  • Insomnia, anxiety, and depression were common
  • A significant number of participants still had lung abnormalities visible on computed tomography scan
  • 13 percent had abnormal kidney function 

These long-term issues may involve the lungs, the cardiovascular system, the brain and other parts of the nervous system, and even may have psychological consequences, any of which may prove to be debilitating.

While this study only looked at people who were hospitalised with it & whose average age was 57, previous research showed that the likelihood of developing Long Covid was more common in the young than the old, and the most common prolonged symptoms being a cough (or breathlessness) and especially fatigue (or decreased exercise tolerance), even among those who had been very fit prior to illness. While men seem to be at increased risk of severe infection, women and those with a higher BMI seem to be more affected by Long Covid. Studies seem to think that altered hormonal status is one of the predictors for it.

Research suggests around one in five people who test positive for Covid-19 have symptoms for five weeks or longer. For around one in ten people, they last 12 weeks or longer.

Symptom management tips from the UK include:

  • Pace yourself – plan what you’re going to do and don’t over-exert yourself.
  • Try to break tasks which feel difficult down into smaller chunks, and alternate easier and harder activities.
  • Be kind to yourself during your recovery – be prepared that some days will be worse than others
  •  Connecting with other people can help you feel happier – make sure to reach out to family and friends.
  •  Having a daily routine can be good for your mood and sense of stability.
  •  Stay active – continuing to move will help release endorphins and improve your mood.
  • Make notes to help you remember things – whether it’s in work meetings or medical appointments.

Flexibility exercises (like stretches, yoga and tai chi) and strength exercises (like climbing stairs, lifting weights and working with resistance bands) can be useful. (https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/news/coronavirus-and-your-health/long-covid)

Results from data analysis by a team from the Cleveland Clinic (PLoS Biol. 2020 Nov 6;18) showed that patients who used melatonin as a supplement had, on average, a 28% lower risk of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. 

This is interesting, but not very helpful for us in New Zealand where melatonin is available on prescription only. The usual reason a GP will prescribe melatonin here is for the treatment of insomnia.

Other recommended pro-active habits such as discussed earlier and across the media still apply, such as using PPE appropriately and maintaining a good diet, exercise and sleep and not putting oneself at risk. The best advice is to try to avoid contracting Covid-19 in the first place!

For those wanting to prevent or reduce the effects of Covid-19, Marion Stobie offers tailored health programmes specifically for your genetic predispositions, health history, and current circumstances. Contact us to book a Fitgenes DNA test and naturopathic consultation.

Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski on Unsplash

Article written by Marion Stobie

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