Dr Sheri Fanaroff, a General Practitioner, weighs in with how to combat extreme fatigue when fighting a Covid-19 infection.
By Dr Sheri Fanaroff: General Practitioner
A very common symptom associated with Covid-19 is extreme fatigue. This has been present both in patients with both mild and severe infections.
Fatigue may persist long after the 10-day isolation period and can be challenging in people who are trying to get back to normal routines and to work following their illness.
Tiredness or fatigue is often the first symptom experienced by patients during the first viraemic stage of Covid-19 infection.
It is often followed by body aches, fever, headache and a cough. In some patients, fatigue has been the only symptom.
In a large peer-reviewed meta-analysis (compiled from 148 studies done in 9 countries) published in PLOS on 23 June, fatigue was listed as the third most common symptom in adults infected with SARS-CoV-2 (following cough and fever).
Fatigue is listed among the common symptoms caused by Covid-19 on the WHO site as well as on the US CDC list of symptoms.
Fatigue during active infection can be experienced as mental fatigue:
- lack of alertness
- inability to concentrate
Or physical fatigue:
- having no energy
- muscle weakness
- difficulty getting out of bed
- slow movements
- heavy feeling in body
- back pain
- muscle and joint aches
- difficulty performing activities of daily living eg dressing, washing, cleaning, eating
Tips for managing fatigue during initial illness:
- Listen to your body and rest when you need to
- Sleep/nap during the first ten days as much as you need to
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
- Eat healthy food (small amounts at regular intervals throughout the day)
- Take Vitamins B, C, D and zinc
- Take paracetamol every four to six hours if needed for fever, headaches and body pains
- Try to get up and move about at regular intervals (even a short walk around the room or a few stretches).
- Breathing exercises are helpful
- Conserve energy - delegate, ask family and friends for help and don’t perform any unnecessary tasks
- Avoid going up and down stairs
- Keep medications, tissues and frequently used items within reach
- Prioritise what you need to do and leave out any tasks or activities that are not essential
- Consider using a seat in the shower
- Limit phone calls to a few close family members or friends as talking may be tiring
- Use relaxation techniques to help you to rest
Post viral fatigue following Covid-19 infection is unfortunately common, as it is with several other viruses, such as Epstein Barr Virus and Influenza.
Patients who have been very ill and treated in ICU can expect to take a few months to recover from Covid-19 infection.
There is recent evidence that even some people who experience mild symptoms at home may also have a prolonged illness, and experience persistent fatigue for a few weeks after the infection.
Symptoms of fatigue that persist may be similar to the mental and physical symptoms described above and can resemble Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis).
Symptoms may also include exhaustion, headaches, body pains, trouble thinking or remembering, cognitive dysfunction, brain fog and malaise following exertion.
The length of time that it takes to recover from Covid-19 varies from person to person. For some, fatigue might last only a few days, while for others it might last weeks or even months.
The more severe your symptoms, the longer it might take to return to normal for you.
In other news, Briefly.co.za reported that the New York Times had incorrectly claimed that SA ranked 5th globally when it came to Covidn-19 infection rates.
At the time of publication, South Africa had actually ranked 17th while Panama took 5th place.
The report, detailing corruption during the pandemic, has since been rectified by the publication according to Africa Check.
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