Local doctor explains 'COVID long-haulers,' possible relief options available

Posted at 6:33 PM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-14 20:50:27-04

LAFAYETTE, La. — Research by the Centers for Disease Control continues to discover the long-term and short-term effects of COVID-19.

We spoke with an Acadiana doctor to find out more about those being called 'COVID long-haulers' and what relief options may be available.

"I tested positive in August of last year, completely lost my taste and smell," said Hannah Henry.

Henry expected to have her sense of taste and smell return after she felt better, but more than seven months later...

"When I do smell, it smells awful. And it all smells the same," she said.

The change even ruined food and drinks she once enjoyed.

"Coffee is the worst. The absolute worst. I can't even be near it when it is brewing. And chocolate is so bad"

Henry is known as a 'COVID long-hauler.' According to Our Lady of Lourdes Interim Chief Medical Director Henry Kaufman, anyone having symptoms after 30 days is considered to be a long-hauler.

"There's a bunch of diseases like it. We can draw parallels to other diseases, like chronic fatigue syndrome, post viral syndrome," explained Kaufman. "It may not be necessarily a unique disease to COVID."

Long-hauler symptoms include fatigue, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and a chronic cough. Some even report mental effects, including brain fog, short-term memory issues, and a reduced ability to concentrate. It is also believed to affect other organs.

"Younger women tend to have more of the prolonged chronic fatigue syndrome, possible autoimmune associated things. That fits along with other autoimmune disorders. Respiratory disease tends to be worse in people who were older, over age 70. People who have the brain fog and other organ dysfunction."

Kaufman says as studies continue, it's still unclear why people continue to have the symptoms.

"So it may turn out that this is actually a bunch of different causes. In fact I think it likely is. So you have an autoimmune component, you may have a component that comes from small blood clots affecting the blood, brain, and other organs. There is probably an inflammatory component as well, that during COVID you get protein deposition in the lungs that does not go away, that causes restrictive lung disease," he added."

As for relief, officials suggest people exercise and take different vitamins. Others believe the COVID vaccine helps; however, Kaufman warns there are no officials answers.

"Seeking advice from your primary health care provider and not assuming these are COVID symptoms is the best advice I can give you."

"Long term, it's miserable," added Henry. "I mean, think of living in Louisiana and not being able to taste crawfish."

Several support groups for COVID long-haulers can be found on Facebook.

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