Long covid

I am writing this on day twelve of my covid journey. I managed to dodge ‘the bullet’ for two years and two months, had three vaccinations and never stopped wearing masks, as did my patients, in clinics and crowded places. It’s too soon to say if I have long covid. So what is it? The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) defines long Covid as lasting for more than 12 weeks. This is obviously a fairly new phenomenon. However there are some good resources available such as the British Heart Foundation and the NHS website.

Those with long covid report fatigue (over half of sufferers) and loss of smell and/or breathlessness (more than a third). Other symptoms may include brain fog, poor concentration and memory, anxiety and low mood, joint pain and skin problems.

Fatigue: tips include to lower your expectations of what you can achieve each day (maybe by a half) and ‘park’ non essential tasks. You need to not overdo it when feeling relatively good as the ‘crash’ after can zap your precious reserves and these may take a while to replenish. If you become overtired more symptoms may return. Can you plan your activities across a week with plenty of rest in between?

Total rest is not helpful either however, as exercise aids good blood circulation and waste removal and results in feelings of satisfaction and achievement.

Fuel for bodily recovery is good quality, healthy food and drink. Take time to arrange and present tasty nutritious morsels on your best china. Can your set table the table with sparkling glasses and light a candle too?

Breathing and relaxation exercise: lie on your back with your head on a pillow and another under your knees. Close your eyes and scan all around your body for areas of pain and tension. Focus on letting them soften and ‘melt’. Place your hand on your lower abdomen and notice your breath coming in through your nose and down to your hands. Note your gentle breathing out as being a passive slow movement. Set a timer or play some soothing music and try to do this for a few minutes each day. You may add a mediation or mindfulness exercise if you wish.

Loss of smell? Practise with a few bottles of essential oils smelt once or twice daily to reawaken your olfactory nerves. Years ago when I taught aromatherapy a student who had lost her sense of smell always joined in with our weekly ‘oil of the week’ sniffing. After weeks of not being able to identify any scent, one week she started to notice some improvement. Result! Also practise sniffing citrus fruits; using herbs and spices in cooking and when out in the garden.

Many report unusual or worsening itchy rashes, sore patches and irritations. Cool the skin with a cool flannel compress, cold fan and breathable fabrics. Stay away from heat and use non perfumed washing and cleaning products on you and around your home. Use a bland soothing moisturiser often.

Don’t forget acupuncture treatments! I have had good results treating people post covid. Patients report feeling supported with their recovery and symptoms becoming less severe.

More resources

There are support groups and local specialist clinics in some areas (with physios, councillors and other specialists who can advise you).

I’ve read an excerpt from The Long Covid Self-Help Guide, and it looks very useful.