By Reon Janse van Rensburg
The Covid-19 pandemic is still raging in several countries around the world. By 20 July 2021 the death toll stood at 4 096 422 while there are 190 939 839 cases recorded globally of people contracting the virus.
More than a year since the start of the pandemic we know that the success of the vaccines is directly related to the Covid-19 infections and deaths. There is already a clear decrease in the death toll in countries who have implemented a strong vaccine programme compared to countries that were unable to do so until now.
Doctors and medicine experts of almost every country in the world is daily learning more about the coronavirus and even though studies are embarked on a large scale, there is still no clear answer as to the long-term implications of Covid-19.
What does the recovery from a light, mild or serious Covid-19 diagnose look like?
According to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), the following experiences of people diagnosed with Covid-19 apply:
Light Covid-19 diagnosis: About 80% of people infected with Covid-19 are completely asymptomatic (have no symptoms) or will have mild symptoms. Someone with mild symptoms should recover within a week to ten days. If you experience mild illness, you can expect the recovery process to be similar to that of other serious respiratory viral infections such as flu. However, consult your doctor in this regard.
Mild Covid-19 diagnosis: With this form of Covid-19, people experience more acute or worrying symptoms, which justify a visit to an emergency department of a hospital or even hospitalisation. The recovery process is longer than those with milder symptoms, and one can expect a prolonged (several weeks long) experience of fatigue, coughing and shortness of breath, as well as other symptoms (which may differ from person to person). However, consult your doctor who knows your unique circumstances and can work accordingly.
Serious Covid-19 diagnosis: This form of Covid-19 can lead to someone ending up in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and possibly having to be connected to a ventilator. It will then take from a few weeks to months to recover, as it may take time for the affected parts of your body to return to full strength. For example, if your lungs are affected, the amount of time it takes to return to normal function will depend on how much strength someone has lost and how much damage has been done to their lungs. Covid-19 can affect various systems and areas of the human body. However, each patient’s circumstances are different and therefore you must be treated by a doctor.
For millions of people who have already recovered from Covid-19, the virus has a lasting and life-changing effect on their health, drastically affecting their ability to resume a normal life. There are many people who have already recovered from Covid-19, whom has mild to drastic consequences of the virus. This condition called long-term Covid contains a list of symptoms that are noticed in more and more people.
Long-term Covid is a range of symptoms that lasts weeks or months after a person contracted Covid-19 and can even appear weeks after infection with the virus. Long-term Covid can happen to anyone who had Covid-19, even if their diagnosis were light or if they had no symptoms.
This includes light symptoms such as fatigue, to be out of breath, confusion and painful joints. It also includes more serious symptoms such as the weakening of the lungs as well as several implications to one’s heart.
Other consequences also include neurological conditions and mental health issues, such as depression. Studies indicate that a Covid-19 infection can also attack brain cells and the nervous system. However, the full effect will only be indicated at a later stage because studies are currently still ongoing.
Scientists describe that they are working in an unprecedented field while trying to define a condition that could affect millions of people around the world, drastically reduce their quality of life and increase the pressure on healthcare systems.
The following symptoms were also noticed at patients struggling with long-term Covid:
- Problems with thoughts and concentrating
- Loss of smell and taste
- Dizziness when standing
- Increased heartrate
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing or short of breath
- Joint or muscle pain
If you are diagnosed with Covid-19 and already recovered, but still show symptoms (even symptoms not listed above) which might relate to long-term Covid, Solidarity wants to recommend that you visit your doctor to monitor the situation.
Take care of yourself in the following ways when you have recovered from Covid-19:
- Take it easy
You cannot expect to return to life in the same capacity after just recovering from Covid-19. Take your time to get back to your old routine. Gradually start to participate in all your previous activities.
- Brain and memory exercises or puzzles
Many people already know that they have to take care of their physical wellbeing after Covid-19, but they forget that their brain is just as important and that it should also function properly. To exercise your brain can be fun and does not have to be boring. Build a puzzle and play games such as Sudoku. This helps your brain to get going again while the rest of your body is still recovering.
- Note warning signs and symptoms
Even if you have recovered from Covid-19 it is important to take note of any unusual symptoms such as nagging headaches, or when your breathing is not as it should be. Immediately notify your doctor once you notice strange symptoms so that it can be monitored.
- You are not immune to Covid-19
If you have just recovered from Covid-19 it is probably normal that you feel like a superhero. You may have reached immunity against Covid-19 for a while, but you must remember that it will not last forever. Remember to continue wearing your mask and to avoid public spaces as far as possible. Social distancing should also be taken into consideration. It is still possible that you may carry the disease without your knowing to others and you do not want to be the reason for someone else’s suffering.
- Review your medication if necessary
If you use chronic medication for your blood pressure, sugar etc., it is smart to monitor your symptoms carefully. The dosage of your medication can be adjusted by your doctor should it be necessary.
- Save your energy
Even though you might feel much better already, you must remember that you are still recovering. This means that you must still prioritise your tasks. If you feel the need to rest, it is smart to do so. You can catch up with work later, but to place yourself under unnecessary pressure is unhealthy and can possibly have dire consequences. Your health is your first priority.
- Ask for help – a helping hand is always welcome
There is nothing wrong with asking for help. The realities of Covid-19 are overwhelming and unpredictable. If you are not up to buy groceries, ask a friend or family member to do it for you. There are people who care for you and who would love to lighten the burden. Allow them! One day you can return the favour.
It is important for all of us to share our unique experiences. Now, more than ever, we must talk about things. Talk when we are doing well and when it is not going too well. Families, friends and communities need each other so that we can reach the other side together – however and whenever it may be. If you know of someone who does not have a support system, get involved with them as well.
We are in this thing together. Each and every one of us. Let’s get out of it together.
Long COVID: Unpicking the lasting impact of COVID-19 – https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/226014/long-covid-unpicking-lasting-impact-covid-19/
Tracking Covid-19’s global spread – https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2020/health/coronavirus-maps-and-cases/
What are your expectations around recovery from COVID-19? Here’s what to expect – https://www.discovery.co.za/corporate/covid-19-expectations-around-recovery
Post-COVID care: 7 things you MUST do after recovering from coronavirus – https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health-news/post-covid-care-7-things-you-must-do-after-recovering-from-coronavirus/photostory/77609304.cms
Post-COVID Conditions – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects.html