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General Practice 2023

Síndrome pós-COVID: what é, symptoms and what to do

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Síndrome pós-COVID: what é, symptoms and what to do
Síndrome pós-COVID: what é, symptoms and what to do

Post-COVID syndrome, or long-term COVID, is a term being used to describe cases in which a person has been considered cured of SARS-CoV-2 infection but continues to experience some symptoms or he alth problems infection-related, such as excessive tiredness, muscle pain, coughing, difficulty thinking and/or feeling short of breath.

According to WHO [1], to be considered a post-COVID condition, a person must meet all of these criteria:

  • Show symptoms 3 months after the first symptoms of COVID-19;
  • Having had a confirmed or probable infection with SARS-CoV-2;
  • Having symptoms or he alth problems that last for more than 2 months;
  • Not having another diagnosis that justifies the symptoms.

This type of syndrome has already been observed in other viral infections of the past such as the Spanish flu or SARS infection, and although the person no longer has the active virus in the body, they still have some symptoms that can affect the quality of life. Therefore, this syndrome is being classified as a possible sequel of COVID-19.


Symptoms after COVID

The main post-COVID symptoms are:

  • Excessive fatigue;
  • Muscle pain;
  • Cough;
  • Headache;
  • Stuffy nose;
  • Feeling short of breath;
  • Pain or feeling of pressure in the chest;
  • Palpitations;
  • Loss of taste or smell;
  • Diarrhea and abdominal pain;
  • Confusion and/or difficulty concentrating/thinking.

These symptoms may appear as "new" symptoms or continue from the initial stage, even after the person is considered cured and COVID-19 tests are negative. It is also possible that the symptoms fluctuate over time, that is, that they have periods when they are more intense and others when they are milder.

When to see a doctor

Ideally, all cases of post-COVID symptoms should be evaluated by a general practitioner who can then refer you to the most appropriate speci alty.

However, medical evaluation is more urgent when symptoms have the potential to be a sign of a serious problem (palpitations, strong pressure in the chest, or shortness of breath).

Why does the syndrome happen

The post-COVID syndrome, as well as all the possible complications of the virus, are still being studied. For this reason, the exact cause for its appearance is not known. However, as symptoms appear even after the person is considered cured, it is possible that the syndrome is caused by changes left by the virus in the body.

In mild and moderate cases, the post-COVID syndrome is being related to the "storm" of inflammatory substances that happens during the infection. These substances, known as cytokines, are produced in large quantities during infection and can end up accumulating in the central nervous system, causing many of the characteristic symptoms of the syndrome.

In patients who had a more severe form of COVID-19, it is possible that persistent symptoms are the result of lesions caused by the virus in various parts of the body, such as lungs, heart, brain and muscles, for example.

Who is most at risk of having the syndrome

According to a 2020 study [2], the risk of developing post-COVID syndrome appears to be higher in:

  • Older people, especially over 70;
  • Women;
  • People who had 5 symptoms or more during the first week of being infected with COVID-19.

In addition, people with asthma are also more likely to develop post-COVID syndrome.

How the treatment is done

There is still no specific treatment to combat post-COVID syndrome, so it is important that all people with post-COVID symptoms have an evaluation with a general practitioner. This doctor may, according to the symptoms, prescribe the use of medication, advise lifestyle changes or refer the person to a specialist.

This means that people with chest pain and palpitations are usually referred to a cardiologist, while people with tiredness, coughing and feeling short of breath are usually referred to a pulmonologist. Other speci alties may also be indicated, such as the gastroenterologist, the neurologist or even the physical therapist. These specialists, in addition to recommending treatments aimed at relieving symptoms, may also evaluate the different organs to understand if there is any more specific sequel that needs treatment.

What to do to relieve post-COVID symptoms

Although there is no specific form of treatment to treat all cases of post-COVID syndrome, there are some precautions that can help alleviate some of the less serious and more common symptoms:

  • Excessive fatigue: it is recommended to gradually return to activities of daily living and gradually start physical exercise, starting with low-impact, short-duration exercises under the guidance of the doctor. Consumption of energizing foods, such as green tea, guarana or cinnamon, can also help, but they should be used with caution, especially by people who have some type of heart condition or symptoms.
  • Muscle Pain: Resting, avoiding high-impact activities, and applying heat to painful areas are all good ways to relieve muscle pain. In addition, massaging with pain reliever essential oils such as peppermint or rosemary can also help. Check out other natural ways to treat muscle pain.
  • Cough: It is advisable to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to keep your throat well hydrated. In addition, sucking on a honey or ginger candy, as well as betting on calming and anti-inflammatory teas, such as ginger tea with honey, can help relieve a cough. See other home remedies to relieve cough.
  • Headache: rest and ensure a good night's sleep. Placing cold compresses on your forehead for 10-20 minutes and drinking soothing, anti-inflammatory teas like chamomile or ginger are also good natural ways to relieve a headache.
  • Concentration/Thinking Difficulty: The use of vitamin supplements can help reduce concentration difficulties, however, it is important that they are recommended by a doctor or nutritionist. In addition, to improve thinking and memory, it is also advised to practice memory exercises, such as doing a puzzle or reading a book;
  • Gastrointestinal changes: it is recommended to have a light diet, rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals and easy to digest, besides it is important to increase water consumption. In this way, it is possible to keep the body hydrated and improve the functioning of the intestine, in addition to promoting the relief of symptoms more effectively.

Regardless of these precautions, all symptoms must be evaluated by a doctor, as there may be changes that require treatment with medication, for example. Thus, the care presented should only be used to complement the treatment indicated by the doctor.

How to prevent post-COVID syndrome

To date, the only way to avoid developing post-COVID syndrome remains to avoid becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2. In this way, recommended care should be maintained, such as wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently and maintaining social distance, as well as fully vaccinating against COVID-19. See more details about the vaccine against COVID-19.

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