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COVID-19 Long-Haulers: Tips To Deal With Persisting Symptoms Such As Headaches, Insomnia, Decreased Concentration

• To reduce headaches due to long Covid, stay hydrated by drinking enough water and other fluids.

Neurological symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection persist in majority of long-haulers 6 months after recovery from the disease, finds a new study.

If you had been infected with COVID-19 and you're still suffering from neurological symptoms like headaches, insomnia and decreased concentration, you're not alone. Neurological symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection persist in majority of long-haulers even six months after the recovery from the disease, a new study has revealed.

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, who conducted a longitudinal study to track long-term symptoms of COVID-19, identified a new group of long-haulers with advanced motor and cognitive symptoms. The results were published in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology on June 15, 2022.

Common neurological symptoms in COVID-19 long-haulers

For the study, 56 COVID-19 patients with neurological symptoms were recruited between October 2020 and October 2021. At the start of the study, 89 per cent of participants reported experiencing fatigue and 80 per cent reported headaches. Memory impairment, insomnia and decreased concentration were other common neurological symptoms associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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After six months, only one-third of the participants reported complete resolution of symptoms. The remaining, two-thirds of them, reported persistent neurological symptoms, though severity had diminished in most cases. At six months, the most prevalent symptoms among COVID-19 long-haulers were memory impairment and decreased concentration.

The researchers noted that none of the patients with persistent symptoms had any history of pre-existing neurological conditions prior to their COVID-19 infection.

Surprisingly, the research team also found a novel phenotype within the cohort. Seven per cent of participants reported experiencing a previously unidentified set of symptoms that included cognitive deficits, tremor and difficulty balancing. They labelled the new subgroup as Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 infection with Tremor, Ataxia and Cognitive deficit (PASC-TAC).

According to the researchers, these delayed neurological symptoms are more likely caused by "the infection triggering an inflammatory autoimmune response in the brain."

Who are more likely to experience long-term COVID-19 symptoms?

Dr. Shivaram Rao K, Consultant Neuro Physician, Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad, sated that older people, people with other comorbid conditions and those with very severe initial disease are more likely to be affected with post Covid syndrome.

Citing a study, Dr. Rao added that the most common post Covid syndrome is fatigue which is seen in almost 60 per cent of patients, followed by sleep issues seen in almost 26 per cent and depression/anxiety that is seen in about 23 per cent.

Dr. Rao advises those with post Covid syndrome to do regular exercise, have a good nutrition, good sleep and try to avoid stressors in life to decrease the symptoms.

Tips for COVID-19 survivors to reduce long-term symptoms

Dr. Bipin Jibhkate, Consultant critical care medicine, and ICU director Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road, said that COVID-19 patients should go for regular follow-ups with the doctor even after they have recovered from the infection. He also stressed that importance of getting enough rest, eating well, getting a sound sleep at night and taking medications as suggested by the doctor.

He also recommends COVID survivors to do some light exercises like walking but warns against doing any strenuous activities.

Below, Dr. Jibhkate has shared more tips for COVID-19 survivors to reduce long-term symptoms:

  • To reduce headaches due to long Covid, stay hydrated by drinking enough water and other fluids.
  • To increase concentration, solve puzzles and crosswords.
  • Follow a proper sleep routine to tackle insomnia.
  • A structured routine throughout the day can help you to get back on track.
  • Spend less time on computers and mobile phones to remind yourself to take a break
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, and caffeine
  • Eat a diet loaded with vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains
  • De-stress by doing yoga or meditation to beat brain fog.

"Even taking enough amount of Vitamin E can help with brain health by reducing oxidative stress. So, include pumpkin, almonds, bell peppers, and sunflower seeds in the diet. Stay away from junk, processed and oily foods that can worsen your health," Dr. Jibhkate added.

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