Understanding Long-Haul COVID-19

What Is Long-Haul COVID-19?

For most people, COVID-19 symptoms last two weeks, but long-haul COVID-19 patients experience symptoms for more than four weeks. Some patients experience symptoms for longer than 12 weeks, and even beyond 6 months. Long-haul COVID-19 patients test negative during screening as there is no live virus. 

How Does a Person Develop Long-Haul COVID-19? 

Viral infections and our body's powerful inflammatory response can harm major organs. Vital organs include the lungs, heart, nerves, kidneys, and liver. Symptoms of organ damage remain after the viral infection has passed. Possible symptoms include fatigue, muscle ache, chest pain, breathlessness, memory loss, and headaches.

How Does Physical or Occupational Therapy Benefit Long-Haul COVID-19 Patients?

Physical or Occupational Therapy helps patients improve their stamina by providing a blend of personalized activities. A patient recovering from COVID-19 needs physical activity to get back on track. Nonetheless, major health authorities have advised that people watch out for signs that they are overexerting themselves too soon. Physical or Occupational Therapists work with patients to tailor a health plan and their unique symptoms. The health plan must ensure that your symptoms don’t worsen due to symptoms. 

A common symptom of long-haul COVID-19 is fatigue or exhaustion, not caused by activity or a lack of sleep. Intense physical activity in patients with chronic weariness is harmful. At-home activities for long-haul COVID patients include low-intensity stretches. Stretching enhances range of motion, strength, and balance. In this way, your recovery will depend on your ability to move. Through prescribed movement, physical therapy increases your strength, stamina, and quality of life.

Caution is your key to success! Your Physical or Occupational Therapist watches for signs that make it hard for you to exercise. Signs of lung damage are coughing, chest aches, and difficulties swallowing. The right approach promotes movement, blood flow, and oxygen delivery through your body. Your Physical or Occupational Therapist may use a method called "Symptom Titrated Physical Activity." That means keeping a close eye on your vital signs, such as your heart rate and oxygen levels. In this way, your healthcare professional caters to symptom responses to achieve long-term symptom stability.

Resources Available to Patients

There are websites where resources and expert advice can be found. The most comprehensive online resources for patients are The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) websites. The Patient Led Research Study contains results from a survey of Long-Haul COVID-19 symptoms. The Long COVID Kids website is tailored to Long-Haul COVID-19 in children.

If you or your loved one has Long-Haul COVID-19, there are actions that you can take. Keep medical records, prescriptions, and a brief history summarizing COVID-19 experiences. Give your healthcare provider a call if you or a loved one needs help with Long-Haul COVID-19.

References
1. Crook H, Raza S, Nowell J, Young M, Edison P. Long covid—mechanisms, risk factors, and management BMJ 2021; 374:n1648 doi:10.1136/bmj.n1648

2. World Physiotherapy. World Physiotherapy Response to COVID-19 Briefing Paper 9. Safe rehabilitation approaches for people living with Long COVID: physical activity and exercise. London, UK: World Physiotherapy; 2021.

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Long COVID or Post-COVID Conditions. https://www.cdc.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects/index.html. Published 2022. Accessed May 15, 2022.

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