Here’s How to Cope with Long COVID-Related Brain Fog!

Here’s How to Cope with Long COVID-Related Brain Fog!

Even without catching COVID-19, most of us have experienced brain fog before for a variety of reasons such as pulling an all-nighter or jet-lag and then having to go straight to school or to work.

It usually comes with a struggle to focus, feeling more irritable than usual, more forgetful or just off mentally.

At the end of the day, brain fog affects people in different ways and there are many different health problems that are known to cause it.

However, there is no doubt that COVID has come to be known as one of the most common triggers for this issue that affects people’s capacity to think in a clear, focused manner.

In reality, researchers are still just now starting to even scratch the surface when it comes to figuring out how COVID affects one’s brain but, more and more evidence has been pointing towards the fact that even mild to moderate infections with the virus can cause brain damage, triggering other related problems such as concentration, memory and executive function issues.

The good news is that in most cases, brain fog goes away on its own in just a few weeks although that is not always the case!

The real issue is when it becomes a chronic health problem that persists for many months or even years after the patient heals from their COVID infection.

As mentioned before, there is still a lot scientists do not know about COVID-19 because it is so new, brain fog being one of those symptoms we are yet to figure out just how long it is capable of lasting.

With that being said, whether you are currently experiencing it or want to be well informed if it happens to you as well, here are all the things science currently knows about COVID-19 related brain fog as well as how you can cope with it!

  1. The reason why COVID causes brain fog.

While there are quite a few conditions that can come with brain fog symptoms such as the flu, sepsis, Lyme disease and chemo treated cancer, COVID-caused brain fog is somehow really unique.

According to professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center, James Giordano, no matter what health condition causes brain fog usually, it tends to go away when the person is healed.

However, that isn’t really the case with COVID!

Instead, it has a more widespread inflammatory, long-lasting effect, persisting for months after testing negative for the virus after healing.

Giordano explained that the type of brain fog people suffering from long COVID experience is most likely a result of both direct and indirect inflammatory effects on the brain.

After all, COVID-19 has been proven to be able to trigger a massive inflammatory response that can cause tissue damage all through the body.

More proof has also shown that it can also infect cells in and around the brain directly, causing an inflammatory response in the brain.

Then, when the infection goes away, the inflammatory responses can persist, causing cognitive, behavioral and functioning issues.

One particular theory says that the virus might continue to exist in the body for some of the patients, at really low, undetectable levels, causing ongoing symptoms for a long time.

Early on during the pandemic, scientists had suspicions that long COVID was, first and foremost, a result of severe infections with the virus.

However, according to a study published in the journal Nature earlier this month, even a mild to moderate case is able to damage the brain, causing significant cognitive decline.

Giordano shared that “Now we’re really seeing inflammatory changes in the brain, and those changes disrupt the functional architecture of the way the brain nodes and the networks are operating to control certain aspects of cognition and behavior.”

  1. Brain fog is different depending on the person.

Testing positive for COVID-19 does not necessarily mean you will go on to develop brain fog as well.

In reality, most people are able to clear the infection and become completely healthy right away.

In other cases, they can improve gradually, over time.

However, for the most unlucky, brain fog will persist for a longer time and will sometimes even become debilitating.

Associate professor of neurology and of medicine at New York Medical College, Dr. Mill Etienne, explains that “That’s one of the really fascinating things about this virus: Each body that it goes into, it can affect so differently.”

This situation makes predicting who will and will not develop brain fog early on really difficult.

One factor that seems to play a big role is age, older people being more at risk of developing cognitive issues after catching COVID.

However, that is not to say that young and otherwise healthy people are safe from it.

Etienne mentioned that “You don’t have to have a severe case of COVID in order to have this long COVID syndrome.”

The way brain fog manifests itself is also rather different from person to person.

Some patients may be experiencing fatigue after only slightly exerting themselves mentally or physically.

Giordano notes that “It is not just that they feel tired; they feel like they cannot do this anymore — in other words, they just have to stop doing anything and just kind of rest.”

At the same time, brain fog can also cause short term memory problems and make multitasking a real struggle.

Some people will experience coordination problems, others will become emotionally labile while others can struggle to focus on one task.

One less known thing about brain fog is that it also includes a loss of smell and taste, one of the most recognizable signs of COVID infection, as well as other similar sensory issues.

Etienne has been treating many long COVID patients struggling with brain fog and he shared that he’s seen previously high-functioning adults struggle with focusing and multitasking to the point that, in some cases, they might even lose their livelihoods because of it!

“It’s not just that they feel tired; they literally feel like they can’t do this anymore — in other words, they have to stop doing anything and kind of rest.”

  1. How to manage brain fog.

As mentioned before, brain fog is likely to go away naturally over time, in most cases.

However, there are even people who caught COVID early on in the pandemic and still experience brain fog today, two years later!

With that being said, if you are someone who is still battling it after having been infected with the virus, Giordano advises that you should start by acknowledging you do have it and that it has been affecting your day to day life.

Furthermore, talk to a medical expert, letting them know just how brain fog affects you personally since it tends to manifest in different ways from one person to another.

By doing this, your physician will be able to develop a unique treatment plan, tailored to your specific needs.

Anti-inflammatory drugs may be recommended in some cases.

It is also advisable to try and stay physically and mentally active, although it can be quite difficult for those experiencing more severe cognitive symptoms.

If you can, keep your brain active with recuperative mental tasks also known as cognitive crunches such as making notes, lists, reminders or playing games.

As Giordano puts it, “If you don’t use it, you tend to lose it.”

He also mentioned that some infectious disease experts recommend going on an anti-inflammatory diet.

Fried food, food high in saturated fat and added sugars should generally be avoided as much as possible due to the fact that they tend to cause inflammation in the body.

One of the most useful diets to follow is the Mediterranean diet as it is rich in antioxidants, which Giordano mentions mitigate inflammatory effects in both the brain and body.

Finally, stay hydrated and get plenty of rest!

Giordano shared that “People usually take those things for granted, but in this particular case, it is rather important because rest and hydration can both be very recuperative to brain metabolism.”

Katherine Baldwin

Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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