We probably all know this but...
Here's a quick recap of the mild, though unpleasant, symptoms you can expect to feel with Covid 19:
Anosmia and loss of sense of smell and/or taste
Muscular aches and joint pains
No symptoms at all (asymptomatic)
But what's happening to the body when we feel these symptoms?
The effects of Covid 19 and Long Covid on the body.
For many people, especially the young and the vaccinated, Covid 19 presents as a nasty flu-like cold. The vast majority will recover within a few weeks with no other symptoms. Unfortunately, some people go on to develop complications of Covid-19 and may require hospitalization. This is because of the wide variety of our bodily systems which are compromised by the illness.
Today we'll look at how our bodies are affected by Covid 19 to give us an idea of what our bodies have to endure with this infection and to better understand how far reaching Long Covid symptoms can be.
Body systems affected include:
Respiratory system - Covid destroys a surfactant within the lungs which protects the alvoeli, those little fingers which create gaseous exchange and supply us with oxygen. This prevents our lungs from being able to function properly, causing scarring and blocked arteries within the lungs.
Immune system - Covid encourages an exaggerated inflammatory response; our immune systems go into overdrive
Cardiovascular system and blood - this exaggerated immune response leads to a thickening of the blood which leaves us at greater risk of stroke, DVT and heart failure
Integumentary system (skin) - Covid 19 can cause Endotheliitis: an immune response within the membranes in blood vessels, in which they become inflamed. The condition can cause oedema (swelling) of the surrounding tissue which affects the skin causing conditions such as hives and Covid toe (similar to chilblains)
Digestive system - Covid affects receptors within the gastro intestinal tract leading to nausea, diarrhoea* and abdominal pain. In addition, certain medications used to treat Covid 19 can cause liver damage which itself leads to a form of post viral fatigue.
Nervous system - Those same receptors can affect our sense of smell, they can cause inflammation of the brain and affect our body's ability to oxygenate the muscles. It can also cause parasthesia, a prickling sensation usually felt at the extremities such as fingers and toes.
Urinary system - both the inflammation of the membranes in blood vessels and the lack of oxygenisation caused by the effects on the respiratory system can affect the urinary system. In addition, the immune system may directly attack the renal (kidney) system, leading to a loss of kidney function.
Emotions - Understandably, illness of any kind can cause an emotional backlash. This can affect front-line workers as well as patients. Anxiety, depression, Post traumatic stress disorder and Post intensive care syndrome are all symptoms of Covid 19.
*Never know how to spell diarrhoea? Doctors Instructions Are Run Run Hurry Or Exploding A***!
How does this translate to Long Covid or Post Covid Syndrome?
What is Long Covid? This is the continued presence of one or more Covid symptoms after the initial recovery from the infection.
4 weeks after recovery from Covid 19, 1in 7 people will still have at least one symptom
After 8 weeks, 1 in 20 people may have one or more symptoms.
Post Covid Syndrome is diagnosed if symptoms persist after 12 weeks.
Post Covid Syndrome is described as experiencing longstanding symptoms of any of the effects on the bodily systems detailed above, including a lengthy recovery and feelings of exhaustion.
Research is on-going however, exercise, touch therapies (massage) and movement therapies have all been recommended as part of the recovery prescription.
Although there is very little peer reviewed research yet available, Personal Trainers like me with exercise referral qualifications are studying Chronic Fatigue and other fatigue based exercise guidelines to best help their clients. We're tuned into the channels that will guide us as these recommendations are firmed up. If you want to use exercise or movement therapies to help you manage Post Covid Syndrome, it's vital that you seek a practitioner with access to this information.
It doesn't make for pleasant reading but I hope this newsletter has furnished you with a little more understanding about the importance of taking sensible precautions to prevent contracting Covid 19, what to expect from your body, when to seek help and a little about the kind of help available.