Coping With Long COVID in the Philippines: Our Experience

COVID’s basically a part of our lives now, but long COVID in the Philippines is still not something that’s talked about much.

My husband and I got COVID in December last year. While I’m back to a hundred percent, my husband’s still suffering from debilitating symptoms. The recovery is hard because the world, in general, doesn’t know much about the virus, much less the long-term effects it causes.

What is long COVID?

You know how some viruses leave your body after a period of time? In the case of COVID, most people who get infected get better between 2 and 6 weeks. Sometimes it doesn’t happen though. While the virus may already leave the body, some people may still harbor some effects of the infection; this is called post-viral syndrome. And that’s how many medical professionals see long COVID.

here's how we've been coping with long covid in the philippines

Symptoms that linger

My husband’s symptoms are different from the usual ones. Even when we contracted the virus last year, our symptoms were the more ‘uncommon’ ones at the time such as fatigue, nausea, and headache. We didn’t get a fever or a cough and any other respiratory problems.

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The symptoms that linger in my husband’s body are similar to the ones we had during the ‘live’ phase of the virus. He still has fatigue and headache, though the intensity has been yoyo-ing in the past several months. There had been weeks where he felt he was already at 80% recovery, but then he’d relapse and go back to being close to bed-ridden.

There’s also been new aches and pains; he sometimes gets sharp back pains and the joints in his hands become achy (perhaps what one feels when they have arthritis).

On good days, he can bike to the commercial complex near where we live (still with the feeling of fatigue and headache but with at least the energy to pedal a few kilometers back and forth). On bad days, he’ll sweep just one area of our house and already feel fatigued.

It’s truly been like a rollercoaster ride, but I’m hopeful we’ll finally be able to alight from it. He’s definitely gone better compared to earlier this year.

there's no cure for long covid

How to treat long COVID

The not-so-hopeful part is there’s no one way to treat or heal post-viral syndrome.

In the UK, they’ve created rehabilitation centers for long-haulers. Similar sites have also been set up in the US.

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For us, of course, it’s a different story. We’re starting to see a decline in the number of cases in the metro and yet the government’s planning to open up establishments that may cause a rise in cases again.

Long COVID is also not something that’s talked about often, which is a bit understandable since we haven’t even passed the risk of infection stage yet.

We did already encounter a couple of doctors who have been open to the idea of its existence in patients here; it’s a development since the ones we consulted with around February were hesitant to consider the possibility of the condition. We’re still a long, long way to go though.

How we cope

sleep is the best treatment so far

We’re lucky that my husband’s job doesn’t require him to be on-call for long periods of time, so he can rest when he needs to. I wonder how hard it must be for those who need to work a 9-5 when they can hardly sit up sometimes.

My husband also joined a lot of Facebook groups for support and leads. There are those who have been successful at managing their symptoms while others are still trying to cope (that includes us).

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I’m not a medical professional, definitely not a doctor, so I’m not comfortable sharing what my husband has been taking because it was prescribed by a doctor. It may also not work for others because the symptoms vary.

But aside from medication, we’re also trying home remedies. We try to make sure he has enough sleep all the time, take naps when he can. We also tried to change his diet in the past; we did antihistamine and anti-inflammatory diets for a bit. He also tried fasting.

ginger tea for alleviating long covid symptoms

He drinks salabat often and it helps him, we think (not sure if it’s placebo though). Ginger tea is said to be anti-inflammatory, so we’re hoping it’s helping him with pain somehow.

He takes supplements, but we’re not really sure if they’re doing anything. The only thing we’re sure of that helps him is getting sleep and taking painkillers.

Right now, we don’t really know when he’ll get better from long COVID or if he can actually go back to 100% healthy. But we’re exhausting all our options and sharing our sympathy with those who are also going through it.