Editor’s Note: Find more information about the long COVID at Medscape’s Long COVID Resource Center.
September 22, 2022 – Entrepreneur Maya McNulty, 49, was one of the first victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Schenectady, New York, businesswoman spent two months in the hospital after falling ill in March 2020. In September of this year, she was diagnosed with COVID long.
“Even a simple task like emptying the dishwasher becomes quite a challenge,” she says.
Over the next several months, McNulty met with a range of specialists, including neurologists, pulmonologistsand cardiologists. She had months of physical therapy and respiratory therapy to help restore strength and lung function. While many of the doctors I interviewed were sympathetic to what she was going through, not all were.
“I saw one neurologist who told me to my face that she didn’t believe in a long COVID,” she recalls. “It was especially amazing because the hospital they were in had a long COVID clinic.”
McNulty has started connecting with other long-time COVID patients through a support group that she created at the end of 2020 on the social media app Clubhouse. They exchanged ideas and stories about what helped each other, which led her to try, for the next year, a vegetarian diet, Chinese medicine, and Vitamin C Supplements, among other treatments.
She also worked on unscientific reports she found online and did her own research, which led her to discover claims that some asthma patients with chronic coughs responded well to dry salt therapy, during which patients inhale tiny salt particles into their lungs. To reduce ignitionDilated airways, thin mucus. She’s been doing the procedure at a clinic near her home for over a year and credits it with helping treat her chronic illness Coughespecially as she is recovering from her second bout of COVID-19.
And it’s not cheap – one half-hour session can cost up to $50 and isn’t covered by insurance. There is, too There is no good search To indicate that it can help for a long time Corona virus diseaseaccording to the Cleveland Clinic.
McNulty understands this, but says that many people living with COVID for a long time turn to these treatments out of desperation.
“When it comes to this case, we kind of have to be advocates for ourselves. People are so desperate and so brightened by doctors that they don’t believe in their symptoms that they are playing Russian roulette with their body,” she says. “Most of them just want some hope and a way to relieve the pain.”
Across the country, 16 million Americans have long had COVID, according to Brookings Institution Analysis of the 2022 Census Bureau Report. The report also estimated that up to a quarter of them had debilitating symptoms that they were no longer able to work. While long-term COVID centers may offer treatments to help relieve symptoms, “there are no proven, evidence-based treatments for prolonged periods of COVID at this point,” says Andrew Schamess, MD, professor of internal medicine at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, who directs the recovery program. After COVID. You can’t blame patients for looking for alternative treatments to help them. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of people making a profit selling unproven and unproven treatments.”
Inhalation of live oil
With few evidence-based treatments for the emerging coronavirus for so long, patients with debilitating symptoms can be tempted with unproven options. Pressurized oxygen is one of the things that has gotten a lot of attention. This therapy has traditionally been used to treat divers with decompression sickness or bends. Some clinics also described it as an effective treatment for the Corona virus for long periods.
A very small trial of 73 patients with prolonged COVID-19 was published in July in the journal Scientific ReportsAnd the It was found that those treated with a hyperbaric oxygen regimen 5 days a week for two months showed improvement in brain fog, pain, energy, sleep, anxiety, and depressionCompared to similar patients who received placebo. But larger studies are needed to show how well it works, Schamess points out.
“It’s expensive — about $120 per session — and there’s no evidence to support its use,” he says.
One of the “particularly worrisome” treatments being offered is Kathleen Bell, MD, chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. stem cells Psychiatric treatment. This treatment is still in its early stages, but it is being marketed by some clinics as a way to prevent COVID-19 as well as treat long-term symptoms.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings that there have been no products approved to treat COVID for a long time and recommends that they not be used, except in clinical trials.
“There’s absolutely no regulation — you don’t know what you’re getting, and there’s no research to suggest this treatment is effective,” Bell says. It’s also very expensive – One company based in the Cayman Islands He advertises his treatment for up to $25,000.
Long-term Covid patients even travel to as far away as Cyprus, Germany and Switzerland for a procedure known as hemodialysis, in which large needles are inserted into veins to filter blood and remove inflammatory fats and proteins. British Medical Journal mentioned in July. Some patients are also described blood thinners To remove microscopic blood clots that may contribute to long-term Covid disease. But this treatment is also expensive, with many people paying $10,000 to $15,000 out of their pocket, and there is no published evidence to suggest it works, according toBMJ.
It can be hard to determine what might work and what isn’t proven, given that many primary care providers aren’t even aware of traditional long-running COVID treatments, Bell says. She advises patients to ask the following questions:
- What research is published to support these claims?
- How long should I expect to do this treatment before I see improvement?
- What are the possible side effects?
- Will the medical care provider recommending treatment work with your current medical team to monitor progress?
“If you can’t get answers to these questions, take a step back,” Bell says.
Sorting by Supplements
Yufang Lin, MD, an integrative specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, says many long-term COVID patients walk into her office with bags of nutritional supplements.
“There is no data on it, and in large amounts, it could be harmful,” she says.
Instead, it works closely with the Cleveland Clinic’s long-running COVID Center to conduct a comprehensive screening for each patient, which often includes screening for specific nutritional deficiencies.
“From anecdotal evidence, we see many long-term COVID patients who are deficient in these vitamins and minerals,” Lynn says. “If someone is low, we will suggest the appropriate supplement. Otherwise, we work with them to make some changes in the diet.”
This usually involves an anti-inflammatory vegetarian eating pattern such as Mediterranean dietIt is rich in fruits and vegetables, all grainsnuts, fatty fish, and healthy fats Like olive oil and avocado.
Bell says other supplements that doctors recommend to patients who have had COVID for a long time are meant to treat inflammation, although there is no good evidence for their effectiveness. One is Antioxidants Coenzyme Q10.
But the Small preprint study Posted in scalpel Last August, 121 long-term COVID patients who took 500 milligrams of coenzyme Q10 daily for 6 weeks did not notice any differences in recovery from those who took placebo. Because the study is still in print, it has not been peer-reviewed.
Another is probiotics. A small study for the year 2021 published in the journal Diagnostics and treatment of infectious diseases I found that a mixture of five types of lactobacilli probioticsalong with a prebiotic called inulin, taken for 30 days, helped with long-term COVID symptoms such as coughing and fatigue. But larger studies need to be done to support its use.
One that may have promising results is omega-3 fatty acids. Like many other supplements, these supplements may help treat COVID for a long time by relieving inflammation, says Stephen Flanagan, a rehabilitation medicine specialist at NYU Langone in New York who works with long-term COVID patients. Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York are Examine whether the supplement Can help patients who have lost my sense of taste Or smell after an infection, but the results have not yet appeared Available.
Among the few alternatives that have been shown to help patients are mindfulness-based therapies – in particular, mindfulness-based forms Playing sports Such as Tai Chi and qi gong may be beneficial, as they combine gentle exercise with stress reduction.
“Both are merging Meditationwhich not only helps relieve some of the anxiety associated with prolonged COVID but allows patients to redirect their thought process so they can better deal with symptoms, Flanagan says.
Study 2022 Posted in BMJ is open These two activities were found to reduce inflammatory markers and improve respiratory muscle strength and function in patients recovering from COVID-19.
“I recommend these activities to all my long-time covid patients, as it is inexpensive and easy to find classes to do either at home or in their community,” he says. “Even if it does not improve their prolonged COVID symptoms, it has other benefits such as increased strength and flexibility that can enhance their overall health.”