Most people who have COVID-19 recover completely within a few weeks. But some people, even those with mild versions of the disease, continue to experience symptoms after their initial recovery.
These people have been dubbed “long haulers.” About 10 per cent of those who get COVID-19 will be long haulers, according to a recent article from
The Journal of the American Medical Association.
“Persistent symptoms include headaches, fatigue, aches and pains, shortness of breath, or a loss of smell or taste,” said Dr. Mark Fenton, a transplant respirologist. He is also the Saskatoon Pandemic Co-Chief of Staff, Division Head, Respirology, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan and a Saskatchewan Lung Association board member.
As symptoms linger, these patients may also experience depression, anxiety and a lingering fear that they won’t shake their symptoms.
If you have had COVID-19 and continue to experience symptoms, talk to your primary health care provider. While all practitioners are continuing to learn about the short- and long-term effects of COVID-19 and how they differ from individual to individual, your primary health care provider is the best source of care information specific to your medical history.
Dr. Fenton also wants these patients to know that that there’s support available through the Lung Association of Saskatchewan. The organization has launched an online Facebook support group which is open to anyone who has been diagnosed with the virus, as well as their caregivers.
The group was created so COVID-19 patients have a safe environment to ask questions, share experiences, and offer support to each other. The group, administered by certified respiratory educators, is not meant to be a source of medical advice.
“There’s value in talking to someone,” said Dr. Fenton. “Knowing that there are other people who understand your experience can be comforting.”
In addition to being psychologically reassuring and therapeutic, “the group can also be a platform for an exchange of coping and mitigation strategies,” he said. “There’s also a problem-solving aspect: ‘I’ve been experiencing this,’ and the other person says, ‘Me, too, and here’s what I did and it seemed to help.’ That information exchange can be quite helpful.”
Since the support group’s launch last fall, 38 people have joined. While the majority of members are from Saskatchewan, the group has a following from across the country.
‘We want people to know there’s a place to go online to talk to others, to connect to people,” said Jaimie Peters, Community Care manager at The Lung Association of Saskatchewan.
Besides providing a platform for people to meet, Peters posts information about COVID-19 research programs underway in the event any of the group’s members want to participate.
Leanne Thompson Hill from Aberdeen got COVID-19 in March 2020. She said the virus affected her brain the most. She fainted and had memory problems. She also experienced incredible back and leg pain and issues with her kidney and felt like she had glass in her lungs. Her lungs are now back to normal although she continues to have problems with inflammation and she said she has developed allergies and an “over-charged fight or flight response.”
She joined the group for support.
“It's a place to share stories. When we talk to each other, we find some of us have things in common. It’s a source of comfort to know you’re not alone.”
For more information, visit the Lung Association’s website at lungsask.ca or call 1-888-566-LUNG (5864). A list of additional mental health supports are available on the Government of Saskatchewan’s
Leanne Thompson, pictured in March 2020, sits outside in the cold winter air to ease her breathing.