The more time passes from the initial COVID outbreak in 2020, the more we are able to learn about its long-lasting side effects. In addition to what is being coined as “long COVID,” there are other health concerns that COVID seems to be causing.
Specifically, research is indicating that COVID may be reactivating viruses in the body. These viruses can then lead to debilitating and chronic conditions. Let’s take a closer look at what this means, the symptoms of these reactivated viruses, and the outlook that people who have had COVID can expect.
COVID and Reactivated Viruses: What We Know
The spread of the COVID-19 virus put the world on hold. At the beginning of the pandemic, masks became the norm, social distancing was enforced, and people knew to contact their doctor at any signs of the virus’ symptoms. One of the reasons why there was so much fear surrounding COVID at the beginning was because nobody knew what made it so spreadable and why it was so deadly.
Now, most people know the signs and symptoms. Vaccines are being distributed to a wider age range. Mask and social distancing regulations are relaxing, and the way medical experts treat patients who get COVID is more effective.
Despite all of this progress, it’s still unknown exactly how COVID impacts the body. Now, researchers predict that COVID may be reactivating viruses in the body because the virus suppresses the immune system.
What this means is that it weakens the immune system’s response to viruses that have been dormant or not active but still present in the body. When these viruses “wake up,” so to speak, the body isn’t able to fight them off effectively.
Thus, when people get COVID, they aren’t out of the woods. Instead, they start having further symptoms, including:
- Rapid heart rate
- Brain fog
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Lasting fatigue
What’s more interesting is that the now-active viruses can actually trigger other conditions, like chronic fatigue syndrome. And in people who already have chronic fatigue, the symptoms become much worse when the virus enters their body.
The main symptom of this, as the name suggests, is fatigue. Feeling low on energy and not being able to “recharge” is all part of having this condition. These symptoms mimic long COVID but aren’t the same, exactly, because they’re triggered by those dormant viruses.
It’s unclear how long these symptoms can last. But what is clear is that the way that someone feels after getting COVID, even if they have recovered already or they were asymptomatic to begin with, can be really disrupting. So, how can you manage when you’re living with these symptoms?
Living with the Side Effects of COVID
The fact that COVID reactivates viruses in the body is scary, and living with the side effects of these can be even more overwhelming. When it comes to living with chronic fatigue, you might need to make some adjustments to improve your quality of life.
This might mean that you might choose to skip out on certain activities, like going out with friends, to save your energy. You might also need to take more frequent breaks when doing physical activities. Sometimes, asking for accommodations at work is necessary as well to make sure that you can accomplish what you need to without jeopardizing your health and your wellbeing.
Sometimes, these reactivated viruses triggered by COVID can make you feel generally unwell, as though you are still sick even though you have technically recovered from COVID. In these instances, it’s important to listen to your body and take the necessary steps to protect yourself. For example, if you are feeling dizzy, you might not be able to operate heavy machinery, like driving, when you feel this way.
Additionally, for many people, the lasting side effects from COVID are more than just physical. There can be a real impact on one’s mental health as well. Some signs of mental health distress after COVID to look out for include:
- Feeling on edge
- Persistent feelings of sadness
- Social isolation
- Thoughts of suicide
Whenever any symptoms of COVID—physical or emotional—linger, be sure to contact your doctor for the next steps on how you can further your recovery. There might be some steps you can take to start feeling better.
What You Can Do to Improve Your Health
As of right now, doctors are not recommending the use of antivirals for these viruses that have been reactivated by COVID or for patients with long COVID—or only doing it on a case-by-case basis. Rather, treating the symptoms as they come is the safest way toward recovery at the moment.
To feel better from the symptoms, you might try:
- Eating anti-inflammatory foods
- Getting plenty of rest
- Staying well hydrated
Plus, to be proactive and protect yourself from illnesses, there are some things you can do, such as:
- Taking approved medications when symptoms begin
- Trying natural remedies to boost your immune system
- Taking vitamins
- Gentle, tolerated exercises
- Wearing a mask in public around anyone who is feeling ill
- Washing your hands frequently
Ways to combat the mental health symptoms would be to find a counselor who does cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In addition to this, you can reach out to others who are going through similar experiences. Whether they are recovering from COVID or dealing with chronic fatigue, they might be able to help you feel less alone on your journey. You can find others like you by joining the Pain Resource Community.
The more frequently you and others share your experiences, the more that medical experts will be able to understand the mysteries of COVID. As time passes, researchers will better be able to understand all of the effects of this virus. In turn, they will be able to more effectively prevent and treat the symptoms. For now, if you’re suffering from the side effects of COVID, stay in contact with your trusted health care team. Though it may not seem like it now, progress continues to happen in getting you and others like you toward feeling well once again.
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