The Lingering Effects of COVID-19 & Rehabilitation: What should COVID patients look out for post recovery?

By Jade Waddy

As more information and research becomes available about COVID-19, many COVID-19 survivors are simultaneously beginning their journey towards recovery. If you, a family member or friend is entering COVID-19 recovery mode, it’s important to be aware of the lingering effects of the virus, as it can look different for everyone. Dr. Gerard E. Francisco, Chief Medical Officer at TIRR Memorial Hermann and Professor and Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at UTHealth McGovern Medical School answered important questions on what the lingering effects of COVID-19 look like, how it can affect the body and the benefits of rehabilitation programs. 

Question: What are the lingering effects and physical changes someone may experience?

Every organ system in the body can be affected by COVID—either directly by the virus, or as a result of the body’s response to the virus. This is why COVID-19 survivors are subject to experience a wide range of lingering effects that are inclusive of mental and physical changes to the body, such as muscle tightening, memory loss or not being able to distinguish the sensation of hot and cold. These changes can affect parts of the body ranging from the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and more. When unaddressed, effects may even result in long-lasting physical, cognitive, and psychological dysfunction, such as strokes, heart disease and spinal cord injury. 

In general, there is no official list of symptoms people should lookout for or can access through WebMD; however, it is crucial to take detailed notes of a survivor’s symptoms and to not ignore the body’s reactions and responses. 

Question: When should someone see a doctor or medical professional?

While people often think it is best practice to wait until symptoms pass in this pandemic landscape, it’s advised for COVID-19 patients, once they’re stable, to seek guidance from a medical professional sooner rather than later to address any health problems right away. Post-COVID symptoms are proven to be so wide-ranged, with medical research discovering new symptoms and correlating effects as time passes. At the end of the day, COVID-19 recovery looks different for each individual, which is why it’s vital to seek tailored, medical advice from a professional, such as a rehabilitation specialist.

Question: Should a COVID-19 survivor consider a rehabilitation program?

Each COVID-19 survivors’ recovery journey is unique, which is why all survivors should consider participating in a rehabilitation program. TIRR Memorial Hermann’s rehabilitation program fully assesses each patient, takes their condition/special needs into consideration and designs a rehab program tailored to the individual; every patient’s therapy plan will look different. These programs are designed to help mitigate complications and work towards bringing patients back to their pre-COVID state of being.

Medical and rehabilitation professionals across the world are working tirelessly to end this virus, and are making new discoveries along the way. If you or your loved ones have stepped into recovery mode, TIRR Memorial Hermann encourages to take note of lingering effects and to seek professional advice or rehabilitation programs as necessary.  

To read more about the long-term effects of COVID-19 and the TIRR Memorial Hermann COVID-19 Rehabilitation Program visit http://tirr.memorialhermann.org/programs-specialties/covid-rehab/

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