Recovery and care after Covid-19

Zubair Khaled Huq

The road to recovery from Covid-19 could be like looking down the barrel. Not only it is about dealing with fatigue, breathlessness and other physical effects of the disease, but also living with its psychological impact. Quarantined all alone, away from home or in the home, patients feel down and out, not only physically but mentally as well. A study published in the Lancet says that even patients who have had mild to moderate symptoms of Covid-19 are likely to grapple with cognitive changes in the aftermath — from dementia to depression, chronic cough and even heart diseases.

Emerging evidence does point out that those who recover from Covid-19 may face several long-term issues such as the shortness of breath, fatigue, headache and confusion. While a Covid patient usually becomes negative in two weeks, the real recovery may take a few more weeks although it might be different for different individuals. Studies have showed that people may suffer from kidney, lungs, and heart ailments as well after the recovery. Moreover, morally dejected patients may fear that they can contract the disease any time again. Even with two doses of vaccination, someone can be infected again. The only relief is that the fully vaccinated people in such cases may experience lesser degree of illness.

The other possible long-term impact of Covid-19 includes neurological conditions and mental health issues as research shows that the disease can also attack the brain and central nervous system. While data are still limited and non-conclusive, it is still strongly advised to regularly monitor symptoms after the recovery to look for any warning signs. There are ways to take care of the patients after testing negative for Covid-19. Work abstinence at least for a week after recovery is a must. The idea is not to bounce back to the previous life as soon as patients get back home or test negative for the disease. Patients need to slowly adjust to the old routine. There is the need for investing some time daily in tasks, games or exercises that could ensure relaxation. The objecting to take it gradually, one thing at a time.

Whether it is a nagging headache or a bout of breathlessness, it is important to pay attention to any signs that the body is not doing all right. Patients should always inform physicians of any such issues after the recovery. In cases of chronic illness and co-morbidity, patients, especially the elderly, can take regular medication. But it is strongly advised to monitor symptoms such as blood pressure, sugar level and, of course, pulse oximetry to monitor the oxygen saturation. It is an indicator to monitor the status whether to go for oxygenation and shift the patients to hospital. The decision is important and life-saving. For any discomfort, consultation with the physician is a must because there may be needs for drug dosage revisions. If the patents are on multiple medications, they must consult physicians before making any changes. Because in this stage, the immunity remains low and patients need to be causes about being started on any medication. Research on the role of drugs for the Covid coronavirus is changing regularly. So, correct information regarding drugs has to be ensured.

Contracting Covid-19 may give the body a certain degree of immunity from the disease, but studies suggest that it is most likely to be temporary. Hence, it is important to continue wearing masks in public and practise social distancing, wash the hands and use the sanitiser. While being on a road to recovery, it is important to prioritise the most important tasks and leave everything else out. It is important to retain energy as much as possible and defer unnecessary tasks. Proper care and rest will make patients feel like themselves again.

Diminished cognitive abilities like the lack of concentration, memory recall and recognition issues and brain fog are likely to show up. The difficulties may go away within weeks or months after recovery, but for some people, it can take longer. The difficulties can have an impact on the relationships, daily activities and professional life. When families need to take all such issues seriously when the patients get back to normal life. Restlessness at times is understandable, but patients need to rush the mind and body back into order, especially after a disease such as Covid-19. It is important to get into old activities gradually and if it feels too overwhelming, it is important to take time off to recover or talk to specialists. Most people with Covid-19 recover within two weeks. But some people with more severe symptoms can take 12 weeks or more to feel better. Some people, especially those who fall ill enough to need to go to hospital, continue to have symptoms for a longer period. The symptoms can be mild or serious.

What symptoms are most likely to persist? This is not the same for all. Symptoms that are more likely to last beyond a few weeks include tiredness, breathing difficulties, chest discomfort, coughing. Other physical symptoms can also continue beyond a few weeks. These include problems with smell or taste, headache, running nose, joint or muscle pain, trouble with sleeping or eating, sweating, and diarrhoea. Some people have ongoing psychological symptoms, too. They might include trouble thinking clearly, focusing, or remembering, depression, anxiety, or a related condition called post-traumatic stress disorder. It is hard for physicians to predict when symptoms will improve as this is different for different people. The recovery will depend on the age, the overall health and how severe the Covid-19 symptoms are. Some symptoms such as fatigue might continue even others improve or go away.

Depending on symptoms, the patients might need tests. This will help physicians to better understand what is causing the symptoms and whether any treatment is needed. How are persistent Covid-19 symptoms treated? In general, treatment involves addressing whichever symptoms show up. This often means combining a few different ways of treatment. If the patients are tired, they need plenty of rest. The can also try the following things to help in case of fatigue — planning to do important tasks when the patients feel that they have the most energy, typically in the morning. Not doing too many things at once can be a way to do away with fatigue.

Depending on the situation, the patients might also need medicines to recover from symptoms such as cough or pain. Cardiac rehabilitation which involves improving heart health through things such as exercise, dietary changes, and quitting smoking could be of help. Pulmonary rehabilitation includes breathing exercises to help strengthen the lungs. Physical and occupational therapy involving learning exercises, movements and ways of doing everyday tasks could also be of great help. The treatment for anxiety or depression can involve medicine or counselling. The best way to prevent Covid-19 is to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated will also help to protect other people, including those at high risk of falling ill or dying. People who are not vaccinated can lower their risk by social distancing, wearing masks in public and washing hands often.