By Stephanie Simons,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire
After more than a year, we are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Covid vaccinations are making their way through the population and, with them, some much needed hope for the future. However, though things are certainly improving, it’s clear there will be no snap back to ‘normal’, especially for those most impacted by the pandemic.
Almost 30 million US citizens have contracted Covid-19 in the past year. Fortunately, the majority have not died from the virus, but many still have to adapt to the lasting symptoms that continue to affect their daily lives.
Long Covid refers to the plight of those with ongoing Covid symptoms. It’s estimated that one in ten still experience symptoms for at least twelve weeks after testing positive, and some for a long while more. Common symptoms include extreme tiredness and fatigue, an inability to concentrate (or ‘brain fog’), a loss of taste, smell, and/or appetite, and mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Others may also experience muscle aches, chest pains, or insomnia.
There is no specific treatment for long Covid, but there are things you can do to help while you wait for the symptoms to pass. Above all, be patient and don’t push yourself into activities you’re not ready for. Short, regular rests will be more effective than sleeping for fewer, longer periods, and you can arrange your schedule around the parts of the day when your energy levels are best. It’s important to keep moving if and when you can, as this will help your muscles rebuild and release endorphins that improve your mood.
Also ongoing is the mental health crisis the coronavirus has unleashed across the globe. Even for those who’ve never caught Covid, it has been a time of tremendous stress, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. Vaccinations may lessen the worry, seeing family again may ease feelings of isolation – but the overall mental impact could last far longer than the pandemic itself.
This is particularly true of those who have lost a loved one during this time. More than 500,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the US alone, leaving behind grieving families, friends, colleagues and neighbours. There are very few of us who haven’t been bereaved in some way over the past year and research suggests grief has been suffered more intensely than ever before.
Bereavement can unleash powerful emotions, from anger and sadness to guilt and exhaustion. Due to Covid restrictions, families have often been separated from their loved ones for some time before their deaths, unable to say goodbye or hold funerals to mark the loss. Many have also had to face their grief alone, unable to access the invaluable support of friends and relatives.
Everyone experiences grief differently, yet we can all benefit from taking care of ourselves, even when we don’t feel like it. Eating and sleeping well will give you more energy and improve your mood. Try a sleep aid like Sleep-Eeze, Unisom or ZzzQuil or Melatonin to help to reset your body clock or a multivitamin like Centrum, One-A-Day or Topcare Multivitamins for Adults to help you on your way and accept that some days you will just need to cry and remember the person you’ve lost. It’s all completely normal and part of the process.
Whatever we’re dealing with, it’s important that we all stay connected. Human interaction plays a vital role in our health, so it’s vital that we check in on people, offer support and likewise ask for help when we need it. Your local pharmacy and community health teams are also here to support you, no matter what stage of the pandemic. We can help with everything from the best painkillers to specialist grief counselling – or even just offer a listening ear. If you or a loved one are struggling to cope with physical or mental symptoms, contact your GP as soon as possible.
Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.