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How to Manage Long COVID

Quoted in Brain & Life Magazine: How to Manage Long COVID

chronicillness covid covid19 longcovid longhaulcovid mental health pandemic psychologist Oct 27, 2021

By Stephanie Cajigal    

Physicians and people living with post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), also known as long COVID, offer suggestions for dealing with symptoms.

Find a doctor with experience

“Look for doctors who have seen a lot of long COVID patients and who know how to manage symptoms and provide supportive care,” says Allison P. Navis, MD, of the Center for Post-COVID Care at Mount Sinai in New York City. “Doctors who haven't seen a lot of these patients may not be comfortable treating them, and patients may feel dismissed.” People with long COVID should first make appointments with their primary care providers, who can connect them with specialists or refer them to post-COVID-19 clinics.

Lean on others

“It's important to have support—a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a friend. It can come in any shape or form,” says Lesley Tessler, whose cerebellar ataxia symptoms have worsened since she had COVID-19. “My husband is the best. If I were alone in this, it would be devastating.”

Talk to a therapist familiar with chronic conditions

Some clinicians and therapists without specific training may dismiss the illness as psychosomatic, says Melissa Geraghty, PsyD, a clinical health psychologist in Batavia, IL, who has PASC. “They might say things like ‘Just get up and keep moving.’ Psychologists who specialize in seeing people with complex medical conditions know it's not in their heads.”

Enroll in a trial

“Many of us wouldn't be alive today if others hadn't enrolled in research studies,” says Avindra Nath, MD, FAAN, clinical director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, MD. “We owe it to others to participate in research even if there may not be an immediate or direct benefit.”

Reduce inflammation 

Emerging research suggests that PASC symptoms may be related to inflammation, says Janna L. Friedly, MD, director of the UW Post-COVID Rehabilitation and Recovery Clinic at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. To lower inflammation, she recommends quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress, and getting adequate sleep. She encourages her patients to follow an anti-inflammatory diet: lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and minimal unhealthy fats and simple carbohydrates like sugar and white flour.

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