Why am I still so tired? When will my COVID-19 posts stop being tired? These are not unusual questions from people recovering from COVID-19. Like many things related to coronavirus, the answer is not entirely clear.
While most people recover quickly, others take longer to heal. But there are ways to boost your energy and focus. Below, we look at common symptoms of COVID-19 fatigue, why you might be struggling, tips for overcoming your symptoms, and when to see your doctor.
Who gets fatigued after COVID-19?
If you’re struggling with fatigue, know you’re not alone – about 8 out of 10 adults with COVID-19 experience fatigue during their illness (and for children, this happens about half the time). Fatigue is common whether you have been hospitalized or if you treat mild COVID-19 symptoms at home.
Unfortunately, the fatigue you feel when you are sick with COVID-19 can continue as one of the symptoms of post-COVID syndrome.
How long does fatigue last after COVID-19?
Your ability to recover from COVID-related fatigue will depend on the severity of the illness. After a mild case of COVID-19, your fatigue may go away in about 2-3 weeks. But if you have a severe case, you may feel sluggish and tired for months.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19 fatigue?
So, what does COVID-19 fatigue feel like? You will most likely feel very tired and have trouble concentrating. But the way you feel tired varies from person to person.
There is physical fatigue accompanied by muscle weakness, body aches. But there is also mental fatigue that makes it hard to focus and find motivation to perform daily activities.
Physical fatigue: COVID-19 muscle weakness and joint pain
The physical fatigue you get from COVID-19 is often more than physical fatigue.
If you’ve been in bed for a long time due to COVID-19, you may have lost muscle strength, especially in your core and legs. Your joints, especially in your back and shoulders, can hurt if you don’t move a lot when you’re sick — joints work better when they’re moved regularly.
Depending on how long you’ve been in bed, you may have trouble sitting, walking, or even breathing comfortably at first. But it tends to get easier once you’ve regained strength through activity and exercise.
Symptoms of muscle fatigue
- Muscular symptoms You may experience cramps, seizures, or tremors.
- Localized pain You may have pain in specific areas of your body, such as your shoulders or legs.
- Hurt Body aches after COVID-19 are very common.
- Shortness of breath – If the muscles in your neck or chest are slightly weakened, it can lead to respiratory problems after COVID-19.
Are COVID-19 fatigue symptoms the same as chronic fatigue syndrome?
Experts still don’t know if persistent fatigue symptoms after COVID-19 are the same as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
CFS, also known as myocarditis (ME), is a long-term condition that causes people to feel extremely tired, especially after exercise. It is estimated that about half of CFS cases are the result of a previous viral infection.
People with CFS may have trouble sleeping, muscle weakness, and brain fog — symptoms commonly associated with post-COVID syndrome. But to be considered CFS, symptoms need to be present for six months or more.
The good news is that there are effective treatments for the lingering fatigue you may experience while recovering from COVID-19.
Treatment to manage post-COVID fatigue and improve strength and energy
Here are some of the best ways to improve energy and focus after COVID-19:
Know your triggers
If you know which situations make your fatigue worse, you can make a plan to deal with them. Journaling can help identify your triggers, such as social events or grocery shopping. Things to watch for include:
- Your activities
- Your energy levels at different times of the day
- How are you sleeping and is the medication affecting your sleep?
- How much exercise are you doing?
- Your current mood
It may seem like sleep doesn’t help you feel much less tired, but it is. In fact, sleep is crucial in recovering from COVID-19 fatigue. Tips for better sleep include:
- Keep a sleep schedule – Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day can help improve your sleep quality.
- Keep a relaxing routine at night Possible options to include in your bedtime routine are to take a warm bath, read a book for a few minutes, listen to soothing music, or do some simple stretches.
- Be wise about naps If you’re suffering from COVID-19 fatigue, short snoozes can be a great way to boost your energy. But if you take a lot of naps in the afternoon, it’s likely that they will affect your night’s sleep. So try to keep your daytime naps at 30 minutes or less.
- Spend time outside during the day – Being in some sunlight can help reset your sleep cycle.
- Limit the use of technology before going to bed Blue light from devices like phones, tablets, and computer screens can make it difficult to fall asleep. Installing an app to block blue light can be helpful. But it’s still a good idea to spend some screen-free time to help you settle in at night.
- See your drink Caffeine can stay in your blood for up to 8 hours after you drink it. So it’s best to have your last cup of coffee or tea before dinner time. Also limit all drinks to the evening. It can be hard to feel well rested if you have to get up several times a night to use the bathroom.
- Consider a melatonin supplement If you have trouble falling asleep, ask your doctor if an over-the-counter sleep aid like melatonin might help.
Speed up yourself
You will likely have times of the day when you have more energy. But you’ll need to resist the urge to go through a long to-do list, which can drain you even more. Here are some things to think about when planning your activities:
- please identify – Think about the amount of energy needed for different activities. Do you feel like you still have a lot of energy when you finish walking around the block? Were you completely wiped out after a quick run to the mall? And how much rest do you need afterwards?
- Be realistic – When you plan your day, think about how much energy you have instead of time. While your Saturday may be fully open, you might not be running to the hardware store and spending the afternoon doing yard work. Set achievable goals and gradually increase your activity level.
- Selective – Focus on the things that matter most and find ways to spread them out. Instead of four hours of farming in a day, consider half an hour every day of the week. Also, consider taking advantage of services that can help ease your load. For example, deliver your groceries or use curbside pickup.
Stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet
Drinking water during the day will help your body heal faster. Ideally, you should drink about eight glasses of water a day.
There may be times when you don’t have the energy to cook a meal or eat a salad. You can stock up on prepared food and get food delivery by speed dialing. Just try to choose foods that are rich in nutrients that will give your body an energy boost. Good food choices include fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts, beans, and cheeses. Try to stay away from foods high in fat, sugar, and preservatives.
Constantly on the move
While you shouldn’t run a marathon if you’re tired after COVID-19, exercise can boost your energy and make you feel better. Exercise can also help you fall asleep more easily.
But it’s important not to overexert yourself, especially if you have persistent COVID heart or lung symptoms after COVID-19. Pamper yourself and feel better if you start coughing, have trouble breathing, or feel chest tightness.
If you have Warning signs of a heart attack – such as chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, dizziness or lightheadedness – call 911 immediately.
Pay attention to your mental health
Fatigue can be made worse by depression or anxiety – a feeling that up to 50% of people recovering from COVID-19 experience. So make sure take care of your mental health.
There are people who want to help. Talk about what you’re going through with friends, join a support group, or find a therapist who can help you work through your feelings.
Getting over the long COVID takes time. It can be difficult to find the energy to stay on track. So lean on friends and family for encouragement and support.
If your post-COVID-19 fatigue lasts more than a few weeks, make an appointment with your primary care doctorespecially if your fatigue or other long-distance COVID-19 symptoms are getting worse instead of better.
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may suggest that you see one or more specialists such as occupational therapist, physical therapist or one neuroscientist. We will coordinate care if you need to see more than one person.
But above all, give yourself a break. Post-COVID-19 fatigue is real. If you do, it may take a while before you return to your usual energy levels.