Covid-19 And Brain Fog — Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming & Prof Dr Noran Naqiah Hairi

Survivors of severe disease seem to experience brain fog more than patients with mild disease.

As of August 22, a total of 1,278, 670 Covid-19 patients have recovered and returned to the community. Typically, patients recover from Covid-19 after two to six weeks.

However, some patients can have symptoms that last for weeks or even months after recovery. This persistent state of ill-health for more than three months is known as long Covid.  Besides fatigue, one of the long Covid symptoms that has been frequently reported is brain fog. 

What is brain fog? Brain fog is not a medical or scientific term; it is used by individuals to describe how they feel when they can’t concentrate or their thinking is sluggish or less alert.

Symptoms of brain fog include memory problems, lack of mental clarity, poor concentration, confusion, etc. 

These individuals may have recovered from the acute, life-threatening effects of Covid-19, but still don’t feel that their thinking and memory are back to normal. This condition may affect their work productivity, especially those who are working in the education sector.  

What causes brain fog after Covid-19? Researchers have identified several possible causes, including: 

  • Lack of oxygen caused by lung damage.
  • Inflammation affecting brain cells.
  • An autoimmune disorder that is causing the immune system to attack healthy cells in the body.
  • Lack of blood flow caused by swelling of the small blood vessels in the brain.
  • Invasion of infectious cells into the brain.

How common is brain fog among the Covid-19 survivors? In our preliminary findings on the survey conducted among survivors who have returned to the community, more than 50 per cent of our respondents reported experiencing brain fog for up to six weeks, about 20 per cent up to 12 weeks, and another 10 per cent up to six months. 

Currently, it is not clear why some people develop brain fog and others don’t. Our findings showed that those with severe disease seem to experience brain fog more than patients with mild disease, similar to what has been reported elsewhere. More research is needed to understand this aspect.

What should these individuals do if they experience brain fog post-recovery? The first and most important thing to do is to make an appointment and consult with a doctor.  

Besides medical treatment, individuals suffering from brain fog can practise a healthy lifestyle to improve their situation: 

  • Get enough sleep. Getting good quality sleep can help our bodies repair and recover.
  • Get regular exercise. Physical activity isn’t only beneficial for our hearts and lungs, it’s also a great way to boost our brain functions.
  • Eat well. Try to eat a well-balanced, healthy diet to give our bodies the nourishment needed for good health.
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol. Staying away from tobacco products and alcohol can help minimise inflammation in brains.
  • Keep in touch with family members and friends via social media. When time permits, participate in social activities. Not only do social activities benefit our moods, but they also help our thinking and memories as well.   
  • Pursue other beneficial activities, including reading a novel, engaging in cognitively stimulating activities, listening to music, practising mindfulness, and keeping a positive mental attitude.

Finally, avoid getting Covid-19 again, and get vaccinated as soon as possible.

In order to provide more representative findings on long Covid, we would like to invite all Covid-19 survivors (regardless of whether you suffer from long Covid) to participate in our study, which is an online questionnaire that takes less than 10 minutes to complete. All data is anonymous and kept confidential.

We will be conducting a free webinar on long Covid for study participants on September 18 (Saturday), from 2.00 to 4.00pm. This is the link to the Google form registration.

Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming and Prof Dr Noran Naqiah Hairi are from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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