The condition of being a Covid long hauler is still relatively new with studies being released each month to help medical professionals better understand both its causes and treatments. Patients known as Covid “long haulers” tested positive for Covid 19, but after recovering from the acute phase of the illness then suffer from persistent symptoms including migraines, brain fog, fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of breath. These patients’ condition is also sometimes referred to as “Covid 19 syndrome” or “long Covid.”
Scientists are still determining the prevalence of Covid long haulers but on May 26 the Jama Network published analysis showing that nearly three-quarters of patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 had at least one long-term symptom.
One of the most unique and painful symptoms for Covid long haulers is migraine headaches. In a recent interview Dr. Brian Plato, the leading neurologist at Norton Healthcare, said he’s now treating two kinds of Covid patients: those that newly developed migraines post Covid and those who had migraines previously that have become more frequent post Covid.
Dr. Plato pointed to another post Covid effect in the duration of the migraine headache. Typical patients suffer a migraine for 4 to 74 hours, but post Covid patients can have migraines that last for days and even months.
While scientists continue to explore the migraine connection to Covid long haulers, there are some tips that may help patients manage their condition.
1. Early studies suggest there is a connection between loss of smell and recurring migraine in Covid patients. Existing migraine patients who experience loss of smell during Covid, should proactively reach out to their medical professional to closely watch the progression of their headaches. Despite the potential smell loss-migraine connection, Dr. Plato said scientists have yet to determine why this occurs.
2. If you had moderate to severe Covid symptoms and were never hospitalized you could be at higher risk. Doctors are still trying to identify what creates Covid long haulers and why do some develop migraines. A recent study from the Journal Nature showed that non-hospitalized Covid patients were more at risk for long-term health concerns. The study found that around 1 to 6 months after infection non-hospitalized Covid survivors were 50% more likely to die compared to those who didn’t have COVID-19.
3. Dr Plato states that Covid migraine sufferers have a greater persistence and duration of symptoms. Patients may want to speak with their medical providers about migraine treatments such as neuromodulation devices like the gammaCore Sapphire.
4. Medical professionals recommend patients with long-term Covid effects get adequate sleep and exercise as much as their body will allow to reduce the symptoms.
5. Covid long haulers have also been reported to be “over drugged” which is a risk according to a 2021 VA study. This study in Missouri found that long haulers had a higher incidence use of pain medications, thus increasing other healthcare risks. Non-drug treatments, such as neuromodulation devices, should be considered.
Patients who are Covid long haulers should always consult with their medical professional, but knowing these recent studies and self-advocation can help manage their condition while science catches up.
i Assessment of the Frequency and Variety of Persistent Symptoms Among Patients With COVID-19, May 26, 2021, Tahmina Nasserie, MPH1; Michael Hittle, BS1; Steven N. Goodman, MD, MHS, PhD1
ii COVID long haulers facing new battle with persistent migraines, Feb. 4, 2021, LINK
iv High-dimensional characterization of post-acute sequelae of COVID-19, Journal Nature, April 21, 2021, Ziyad Al-Aly, Yan Xie & Benjamin Bowe
v COVID long haulers facing new battle with persistent migraines, Feb. 4, 2021, LINK
vi High-dimensional characterization of post-acute sequelae of COVID-19, Journal Nature, April 21, 2021, Ziyad Al-Aly, Yan Xie & Benjamin Bowe