Receiving a diagnosis of coronavirus can be very frightening, as the severity of symptoms and rates of recovery can differ from person to person. Someone on the path to recovery may worry they’re not getting better as quickly as they’d like and question if the way they’re feeling is normal.
Regardless of whether someone was admitted to hospital or stayed at home during their illness, the body goes through a lot and it can take time before people start to feel like themselves again. There is much we still don’t know about coronavirus as scientists continue to research and learn.
Some will find they have been left with symptoms that are slow to get better. Others have reported reoccurring symptoms.
Some of the more common symptoms that people have been left with are:
- feeling tired a lot of the time, often with a lack of energy
- weak muscles and stiff joints, which can make balance and walking difficult
- feeling breathless, especially when active
- a lingering, troublesome cough
- loss of weight and muscle mass leading to a general weakness
- losing interest in food and feeling unmotivated to eat
- difficulty chewing and swallowing
- finding it hard to get off to sleep and stay asleep
- finding it hard to think clearly and feeling forgetful at times.
As coronavirus is still relatively new, people will be unsure of what they can to do to help speed up your recovery.
There are things that may help:
Eating and drinking regularly throughout the day is important to help keep strength up and aid recovery. Being well nourished and hydrated will help the body fight the illness.
If someone’s appetite is small they should try to eat 6 small snacks throughout the day. Eating something is better than nothing so have anything which takes your fancy – you might have a milky coffee or hot chocolate, a small piece of cake, small finger foods and small pieces of ripe fruit to freshen your mouth. It’s important to stay hydrated so try to have 8 drinks throughout the day.
Although it's important to rest, small periods of physical activity will help to rebuild strength and fitness.
Start off with small things, such as going to make a drink, or getting in and out of a chair a couple of times. Doing a little bit each day is important, as is listening to your body and making sure not to overdo things.
Taking time to rest between each task is good, and if someone experiences fatigue one day, they should have a rest and try again the next.
Don't be disheartened
Feelings of frustration are natural if someone feels unable to do the things they could before, or about the length of time they’ve been unwell, but try not to be disheartened. Even if recovery isn’t as quick as expected, it’s important to stay positive and motivated. Comparing recovery to someone else’s isn’t helpful, as the process will be different for everyone. It is often helpful to take some time to think about what is important and set achievable goals to help get there.
Fear, worry and feeling unwell with reoccurring symptoms can take a toll on mental health and wellbeing, as it’s natural to feel upset or anxious about the experience and to worry about your future.
It can help to share experiences with friends and family or maybe a self-help group, where others have experienced similar feelings. This can be a good way to help process and come to terms with it.
Relaxation techniques and mindfulness can help manage difficult and unhelpful thoughts and emotions. If more help is needed, speaking to a GP is good idea. GPs understand how upsetting having coronavirus can be and how poorly it makes people feel.
There are lots of resources available to help you through this time:
- Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation have created a post-Covid hub to support people who are recovering from coronavirus
- Alzheimer’s UK have created resources for people with dementia who are recovering from coronavirus
- The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists have resources to help you on your road to recovery
- The Lancashire Teaching Hospital have online resources and videos to help you with your physical and mental health
- Homerton Hospital has developed a guide for people recovering from coronavirus, with advice on managing side effects, including coughs, breathlessness, and low energy.