We have produced a series of videos to help with your breathing and fatigue management following infection with COVID 19. These short films will give you techniques and coping methods to help you manage your ongoing symptoms. We hope you find them helpful:
Most COVID-19 infections go away within the first couple of weeks, but for some people, even those who weren’t seriously ill, these symptoms can last much longer.
Having persistent symptoms that continue or develop after your COVID-19 infection has gone away is referred to as Long COVID, or post COVID-19 Syndrome.
The symptoms experienced can be varied and can even change over time. It can also include new health problems experienced following a COVID-19 infection.
It is currently understood that there are two types of Long COVID:
- Ongoing systematic COVID: This is when symptoms continue for 4-12 weeks
- Post COVID-19 Syndrome: When symptoms carry on for more than 12 weeks
You can have Long COVID even if you weren’t very ill or in hospital with your initial infection.
Long COVID is a new condition which is still being studied.
Symptoms of Long COVID are varied and can change over time. If you are worried about symptoms four or more weeks after you have had COVID-19, or think you had COVID-19, contact your GP Practice.
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of smell
- Muscle or joint pain
Other symptoms can include:
- Problems with memory or concentration (can be called ‘brain fog’)
- Tightness or pain in the chest
- Difficulty sleeping
- Depression and anxiety
- Heart palpitations (when you notice your heart beating)
- Pins and needles
- Flu or cold symptoms – fever, coughs, sore throats
- Stomach problems – nausea, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
Living with Long Covid
Managing your symptoms
Some symptoms can be managed at home using self-care. Self-care is about knowing how best to look after yourself, and where the best place to go if you need medical care.
Symptoms such as headaches, coughs, and some stomach problems can be treated with over-the-counter medications you can get from a pharmacy or even a local supermarket.
If you have mental health symptoms, such as anxiety or depression, find out about mental health services in our area.
Managing daily activities
After a COVID-19 infection you may find you have less energy than before for general day-to-day tasks.
It’s important to conserve your energy and make sure to rest when you need it. Consider asking for help from friends or family if you need it – there are also local groups and services that are available to lend a hand.
Plan what needs to be done that day and start there, start small and add in more if you feel able to. Remember, you don’t have to do everything in one day! If you know you feel more tired at certain times of the day, try not to plan anything for then and take that time to rest.
You can also think of different ways to do things if you’re struggling, such as sitting down when getting dressed or only cleaning one room at a time.
Pace yourself, don’t expect to be able to do everything at the same pace you used to. Be kind to yourself and celebrate whenever you achieve something.
It’s common for sleep habits to change after a COVID-19 infection. You may notice that you find it harder to get to sleep or stay asleep or wake up feeling like you haven’t rested.
There are things you can try to improve your sleep:
- Limit coffee, tea, and fizzy drinks before bed
- Try eating dinner earlier in the evening
- Avoid alcohol or smoking/vaping before bed
- Keep the temperature cool in your room
- Try not to watch TV or use your computer/phone before bed
- Avoid anaerobic exercise for at least 2 hours before bed
- Try to get up at the same time every morning, even at weekends
- If you wake up in the night try not to check the time
- Get up and do something relaxing, such as reading, if you struggle to get back to sleep and go back to bed when you feel tired. Try not to worry – that will only make it harder to sleep
If you’ve tried these suggestions and nothing is helping, make an appointment with your GP practice. A clinician will be able to provide further support or refer to specialist services.
Eating the right food gives your body the fuel it needs to get better, and a health diet can help with your general wellbeing. Enjoying a nutrient-dense diet will help to rebuild muscle, boost your immune system, and give your body the energy it needs.
To have a healthy diet you should be eating food from the four main food groups:
- Carbohydrates, for example, pasta, bread, potatoes
- Fruit and vegetables
- High protein foods, for example, fish, chicken, beans, pulses/lentils
- Dairy, for example, milk, yoghurt or a vegan option
Make sure not to bite off more than you can chew, making big changes to your diet may not be sustainable so try to make changes that fit in with your life and family.
If you have a medical condition that requires a special diet, for example, diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease, please ask for more advice from your GP or healthcare professional.
Exercise has a lot of health benefits. For those who don’t have post-exertional malaise, activity can help you feel fitter and stronger, help ease joint pain and stiffness, help you sleep better, and can help you manage the risk of other conditions.
If you are recovering from Long COVID you may only be able to manage small amounts of activity, listen to your body and only do as much as you can.
Here are some tips for being active:
- Exercise doesn’t have to be intense – activity as simple as moving around during an advert break or making yourself dinner can be good for you.
- Allow yourself time to rest after any activity – don’t overdo it
- Stop and rest for as long as you need
- Walking is a great way to increase physical activity. You may only manage 1-2 minutes at first, but you can aim to do a little more each day.
- Keep track of what you have done so you can see your progress
If you are concerned about your limits or your symptoms get worse after activity, consider observing how you feel after over 2-3 days.
Gentle exercise is great for some, but not for everyone. When symptoms such as disabling fatigue or exhaustion, difficulty thinking, pain, or other symptoms are made worse by exercise or exertion this is known as post-exertional malaise (PEM).
It is normal to feel warm, sweaty, or breathless during exercise. However, if you experience a worsening of symptoms after activity it is important to listen to your body.
The worsening of symptoms can happen immediately, or 24-72 hours after exertion. It can be caused by physical, cognitive, social or emotional exertion.
It is important that with any service you check whether they can screen for, and support, post exertional malaise.
The Your Covid Recovery website is a good resource for how to manage fatigue and post exertional malaise.
When to seek medical support
The problems you get after COVID-19 can be worrying, and you might need support to manage them.
If your symptoms last more than four weeks and you’re worried about them, please contact your GP practice.
They will decide what tests, treatments and support you need to manage your symptoms. If your primary healthcare provider thinks you may have Long COVID they may suggest some tests to find out more about your symptoms, and to rule out other things that could be causing them.
You could be referred to a specialist support service if the symptoms are having a big impact on your life.
If you need urgent medical help, use the NHS 111 online service or phone 111 if you do not have access to the internet. In a life threatening or emergency situation, always phone 999.
Local Long Covid Service
Local NHS providers (Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, Solent NHS Trust and Isle of Wight NHS Foundation Trust) have a number of clinics across Hampshire and Isle of Wight to help patients suffering from the effects of Long COVID.
The service is part of a £10m initiative by NHS England, which is funding 69 clinics across the country – six of these being in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Patients referred into the Long COVID service will be asked to fill out a questionnaire and will then undergo a number of physical, cognitive and psychological assessments. Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) will then work alongside other health teams to develop a support plan that will help improve their health outcomes and quality of life.
Patients will also be signposted to existing Long COVID support services and will have access to the ‘Living with COVID’ App, offering patients education, support and encouragement.
Long COVID Kids
If you’re looking for information on how Long COVID can affect children, or are looking after a child presenting symptoms, the Long Covid Kids charity provides a host of information and resources.
They also have a service that connects children living with Long COVID for peer support. This also includes connecting parents and caregivers.
Your COVID Recovery
The Your COVID Recovery website is an NHS online programme that provides a comprehensive run-down of how to live with Long COVID.
Here you can find information on:
- What Long COVID is
- The effects Long COVID can have on the mind and body
- Useful tips on how to eat well, improve sleep, managing day-to-day life, returning to work, and get back into movement
- Links to further support
They also have valuable information for relatives, friends, and carers on supporting a loved-one with Long COVID.
If I have Long COVID am I still infectious?
No. You are usually only infectious for up to 10 days after developing COVID-19 symptoms.
Can I refer myself into the Long COVID support service?
No, you will need a referral from a clinician into the service. This is because a clinician will need to make sure your symptoms aren’t from anything else, and that you don’t have another respiratory problem. They will also be best placed to assess what support you need.
When will I get back to normal?
Recovery is different for everyone. You might find you make a full recovery within 12 weeks of your initial infection, but you might find your recovery takes significantly longer. Some people also notice that they feel better on some days, and worse on others. The length of time it takes a person to get better isn’t always linked to how ill they were with COVID-19 or whether they were in hospital.
If new problems or symptoms occur and you’re worried about them, seek medical support.
When should I go back to work?
This will depend on your health problems and what your job involves. You could think about returning to work if your symptoms have stayed the same or improved over a period of time, you can manage your symptoms, and you are able to carry out daily activity without your symptoms getting worse.
Before you return to work, make sure you recognise your limitations. We would suggest meeting with your manager or occupational health team to discuss how you’re feeling and your current symptoms. They may be able to introduce a phased return or make adjustments for you.