Expert Speak: Why Is Post-COVID Rehabilitation Important For Women?

The entire world has witnessed the catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic. Usually, recovery time from the ailment ranges between 10-14 days for affected individuals. However, for many patients, certain discomforting symptoms may last for months.

These long-term effects, known as ‘Long COVID’, can be observed not only in hospitalised patients, but also in patients who have had a mild or moderate infection. Early research has made it clear that the affected patients will require rehabilitation in various phases of the ailment, namely, acute, post-acute, and long-term, for complete recovery.

Greater Impact On Women

Some of the long COVID symptoms include fatigue, fever, headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, confusion, etc. Current studies have shown clear gender disparity in patients under treatment for long COVID, impacting women more often.

Ryan Hurt, who leads post-COVID syndrome research at the Mayo Clinic, told The Lily that out of the approximate 20,000 patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus there, roughly 10 per cent are considered long-haulers; out of which 60 to 80 per cent of the patients were women. One possibility for this variation is the way the immune system reacts. Hurt also attributed the split to deep sociological or cultural underpinnings – simply that women may be more willing to seek medical attention and speak openly about symptoms, especially those affiliated with mood and cognitive issues.

Impact Of COVID At Various Stages Of Life

While COVID-19 can lead to hospitalisation for all age groups, it has caused the most severe health issues for women above 60 due to the number of underlying health conditions present at this age.

Studies have shown that women in the age bracket of 50-60 years are at the greatest risk of long COVID. Additional factors that increased the risk were being overweight or having asthma. Women may observe a change in their menstruation cycles after COVID, and it may persist for months – irregular cycles, skipped periods, more clots during periods, and exacerbations in PMS.

Post-COVID Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation is key to minimising the impact of COVID-19 on body functions and the health of the individual. COVID may affect various systems, which is why personalised rehabilitation support is very important.

– For heart patients (myocarditis/pericarditis/systolic dysfunction, etc.), it is recommended to avoid intense cardiovascular exercise for three months.
– For those with nervous system affections (demyelination, seizures, ischaemic stroke, encephalitis), a physiotherapy plan is chalked out along with the consulting neurologist.
– Those with major impact on the respiratory system may find respiratory physiotherapy from experienced physiotherapists beneficial. Activities such as progressing from a lying to sitting position, bedside activities of daily living (ADLs), walking and prone positioning can help the patient immensely.

The elderly are at a high risk of developing depression, delirium, loss of muscle mass, and malnutrition. In children, one of the common post-COVID presentations is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome. All these conditions need good, personalised rehab support.

Why Is Rehabilitation Crucial?

– Rehabilitation improves respiratory muscle function, relieves breathlessness, and reduces the number of hospital re-admissions.
– It helps you return to your full potential physically and assists in daily activities by managing fatigue and muscle pain.
– It teaches appropriate techniques to handle exhaustion and be both functional and independent while performing daily activities.

It is important to take good care of oneself to recover completely. Rest, diet, medications, and rehabilitation play a very crucial role in this. Keep an eye on any alarming signs and consult with your treating physician immediately.

This article first appeared in Femina –

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