If you’ve recovered from the big C-19 (what the cool kids are calling COVID), you might be experiencing a deeply annoying lingering symptom: the dreaded brain fog. Like a small but persistent raincloud taking up residence in your cranium, brain fog dampens your neural pathways and is generally really annoying.
According to Harvard Medical Journal contributor Andrew E. Budson, ‘brain fog’ isn’t technically a medical or scientific term. Um, to you, Andrew.
He defines brain fog as what happens when your thinking is “sluggish, fuzzy, and not sharp”.
Budson said that a number of people who recover from COVID have found that their thinking and memory don’t feel like they’ve returned to normal.
As pointed out by News.com.au, it also seems pretty common for brain fog to impact young people, and to last for a significant length of time.
One US study found that recovered COVID patients had brain fog for an average of eight months. That’s quite a significant period of racking your brain trying to remember how to spell the word “restaurant”, as I did today.
According to Budson, the standard activities you might do to improve thinking and memory can all help treat brain fog.
Those include aerobic exercise, though if you’ve had COVID, please be gentle with yourself. I can say from personal experience that rushing yourself back into exercise is a really bad idea when your body’s healing, even if you’re feeling mostly fine.
Budson also recommends avoiding alcohol and drugs, socialising (COVID-safely), sleeping well, and doing activities that tickle your neurons like mindfulness, reading books and listening to music.
In my opinion, it’s important to be kind to your brain post-COVID, fog or not. It did just get you through having a pretty serious illness, after all.
well, pandemic brain fog seems to be increasing pic.twitter.com/pCIRa8pgMy
— Carolyn (@peaceloveangst) January 16, 2022
Keep in mind that despite all the care you can do for you and your brain at this time, there’s no scientific ‘cure’ for brain fog. Like many COVID-related questions, scientists are still trying to figure out the brain fog conundrum.
A new study from the University of San Francisco suggests that cognitive symptoms after you have COVID could be the result of your immune system being overstimulated while you’re sick.
They looked into cerebrospinal fluid, which sounds like something from X-Files but is actually the lovely clear goo that surrounds your brain and spinal cord. It helps cushion your brain and also delivers nutrients and removes waste from it, like a squishy butler.
Now, the study is really small and the average age of the participants was 48, so it’s defs not a conclusive answer to the brain fog. The findings are pretty interesting though.
Joanna Hellmuth, the study’s senior author, said that the anomalies from the study — who had elevated protein levels and unexpected antibodies in their cerebrospinal fluid — could be the result of an overstimulated immune system.
“It’s possible that the immune system, stimulated by the virus, may be functioning in an unintended pathological way,” she said.
Whether it’s funky spinal fluid or something else, there’s no doubt that the brain fog is seriously annoying.
Ultimately, we don’t enough about it (yet) for there to be a solution, other than taking it easy, getting that mindfulness and gentle care in, and keeping up with your daily Wordle, of course.