Can you reduce the risk of long Covid once infected? Here’s what you need to know
Despite widespread vaccine rollouts and recalls, the long Covid phenomenon remains a medical mystery. But while countless people continue to struggle with it, here’s what experts know about prevention and treatment.
Where we lamented 2020 and savored the moment it pushed back its deadly winding into 2021, the New Year has arrived and once again we have found ourselves in a Covid-enforced lockdown. Despite numerous restrictions, masking, social distancing and vaccination mandates, one thing has become abundantly clear, and that is that Covid-19 is not going anywhere. It was insane to think that we could turn the page of the calendar and find ourselves in a reality that seems anything but a distant memory now. Despite everything, we have come a long way in the two years since the pandemic came to wreak havoc around the world. With vaccines and booster shots becoming more widespread around the world, most now show only mild symptoms.
With many strains of the virus emerging, experts now suggest we will all inevitably be infected at some point – such is the reality of life with endemic Covid. But while most feel somewhat comfortable now armed with a vaccine, there are still serious concerns about the long Covid, which remains a medical mystery.
There is still great uncertainty surrounding the long Covid, with doctors still researching what causes it in the first place and why some seem to struggle with it and not others. Currently we have no treatment specifically designed to prevent long Covid, the best way to prevent a persistent case of Covid is to simply get vaccinated and start treatment as soon as possible if you get sick.
Richard Becker, an internal medicine physician at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine who directs the UC Health long Covid clinic, said in an interview with HuffPost, “Vaccination and possibly the early use of oral antiviral drugs are the most tangible and science-based ways to prevent long Covid.”
What causes and prevents long Covid?
Given the relative newness of Covid, there is still much research to be done by scientists to better understand the disease. As a result, little is known about what causes long Covid and how to prevent it.
So far, researchers have largely agreed that the lingering health effects in people after infection – which have now been called long Covid – are the result of inflammation throughout the body. It is also thought that long-term symptoms could indicate that individuals still have small amounts of the virus in their bodies which can trigger various health issues including fatigue, dizziness, brain fog, tremors and chest pain or joints.
Scientists have also found that in most cases those who have had Covid for a long time started out being really sick with Covid. As Jean Paul Higuero-Sevilla, a critical care physician at Yale Medicine, explained to the publication, “Just by the nature of being really sick, a lot of patients will have persistent symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath.”
How can you reduce your risk of long Covid?
Vaccination remains the most effective way to reduce your risk of long Covid, in addition to avoiding contracting Covid in the first place. But with the latest strains proving to be highly infectious, it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid catching Covid. A study published in January found that vaccination slightly reduced a person’s chances of contracting Covid-19 in the long term, while another report from the UK found that two doses of a Covid vaccine resulted in a 41% decrease in the odds of reporting long Covid symptoms.
What can I do after contracting Covid?
If you happen to catch Covid, doctors recommend getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated. Whether this will help reduce the risk of developing long Covid remains to be seen, as research is still ongoing.