I don’t know about you, but it seems like at this point everyone has either had COVID or knows someone close to them who has gone through the battle. And that’s exactly what it feels like, a battle. Just like in battle, going through it is hard, but the aftermath, what you continue to experience afterwards, can be just as hard to deal with. What I want to share with you today are some helpful tips when going through COVID and also some ways to help get you back into regular life after COVID if you find that you are still experiencing some lingering symptoms.
One thing I’ve heard from a lot of people is that it can be really hard to eat much when you have COVID. You feel sick, you don’t have much energy, food doesn’t taste or smell, and you just don’t get hungry. So, I want to touch on this first. It is so important that you keep taking in an adequate amount of nutrition.
With any infection or virus the body has to work really hard to mount an immune response. Your fever is the immune system’s way of revving up your metabolism to help you fight the virus. Fever is associated with excess loss of fluids and an increased metabolism which can lead to dehydration and increased nutritional requirements. So even though you may be laying around and not feeling like you are using many calories, your body's working overtime and burning through those calories trying to fight off the virus. Diet and hydration have a big impact on your immune system and maintaining a proper diet can ensure that the body is in it’s best state to be able to fight off the virus.
Getting groceries or food while you are sick can be a challenge. Thank goodness for options like InstaCart, Amazon Fresh and DoorDash. All good options that can deliver groceries or meals to your home.
The Canadian Malnutrition Task Force has some recommendations for when you don’t feel up to eating much.
Eat small frequent meals 4-6 times per day or eat every couple of hours
Eat foods high in protein first at meal times
Eat high calorie and protein foods such as cheese, high fat and Greek yogurts, peanut butter, cream cheese, or cream soups with whole milk
Add gravies and sauces to meat, poultry, and side dishes
Drink milkshakes or meal replacements/protein drinks between meals
Another thing that is greatly impacted by COVID is your respiratory system. These can be some of the more scary symptoms and it’s important to know what you can do at home to improve your oxygenation and also when to get help. I recently spoke with a highly experienced respiratory therapist (who requested to remain anonymous) on the topic of COVID and he shared with me some great tips on things you can do at home to both monitor and improve your oxygen saturation and also some guidelines on when you should get help.
Monitor Your Oxygen
The first thing he mentioned was if you are experiencing symptoms it is good to get a pulse oximeter and monitor your oxygen saturation levels. He suggested checking your oxygen level at rest to establish a baseline measurement and also to check your oxygen levels when you are up walking around or anytime you are feeling short of breath. Ideally oxygen saturation levels should be 95-100%. If your oxygen levels are staying below 90% that is when it’s a good idea to seek help.
Another great tip if you are finding yourself desaturating at night when you lay down or even when lying down throughout your day is to try laying on your stomach or your side. Our source shared that when laying on your back it’s easier for fluid to build up in your lungs, making it difficult for your lungs to expand. Laying on your stomach allows your lower lobes to rise, increasing your oxygen saturation.
Energy levels can also be affected by COVID and it seems like there are two groups here, those who feel fatigued while the virus is active and those that remain fatigued after the other symptoms have left.
A lot of people end up resting and laying down for days on end while experiencing the virus. This “bed rest” is needed but is also hard on your body. Bed rest results in a loss of muscle strength of about 12%/week! One way to combat this is to slowly reintroduce physical activity into your routine as soon as you can. Before you start, it is important that your oxygen levels stay above 90% with activity. As long as oxygen levels are good we are in the clear to start working back to where we were, but give yourself some grace.
You will be weaker than before and if you’re still battling fatigue allow yourself to take some naps throughout the day. It’s important to set your sights on the long game. Know that this is going to take some time. Your body has been through a war and it will take time and effort to get you back where you were or where you want to be.
They have labeled symptoms lasting longer than the active virus as Post Covid Fatigue Syndrome. One study suggests the likely explanation for this lasting fatigue may be neuroinflammation in the brain due to infection caused by COVID-19 or any systemic inflammation that activates the innate immune system in the brain. This study goes on to suggest a few ways to improve your energy levels when struggling with Post Covid Fatigue Syndrome including:
Rest: use relaxation, breathing and meditation apps, reduce any sensory input that makes you feel tense or is demanding (noise and bright lights), use sensory input to help you rest and relax – (favorite relaxing music, blanket, fragrance, or a hot water bottle).
Nourish: Keep eating and drinking, with as normal a routine as possible and maintain a balanced diet, specially increase your fluid intake.
Move: Get up and move around slowly and gently a few times each day to keep your body moving and to aid circulation. If you are too unwell for this, then you can try and move around in bed a little (stretching out, moving all of your joints, and tensing and relaxing your muscles).
Allow Time: COVID can affect people to varying degrees, so give yourself the time you need for recovery. Avoid pressure to get back to your usual activities as soon as possible.