OHSU’s clinic finds effective ways to treat COVID long haulers

Coronavirus

There's no "breakthrough drug," but an OHSU doctor says there are treatments helping long-COVID patients

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s been nearly six months since Oregon Health & Science University opened its Long COVID Clinic to treat patients with chronic coronavirus symptoms. 

While no “breakthrough drugs” have been discovered as cures to post-COVID syndrome, Dr. Eric Herman, executive lead of OHSU’s Long COVID-19 Program, said doctors at the clinic are discovering treatments to help patients feel better. 

Those treatments include physical therapy to help patients improve their level of activity, and a speech, language, and therapy program to help patients with brain fog better organize their cognitive process and help them plan their days. 

“We are trying to understand all the different symptoms people have because it’s complicated and those complexities can lead to a lot of anxiety,” Herman said. 

In addition to fatigue and brain fog, post-COVID syndrome can cause shortness of breath, cough, joint pain, chest pain, memory, concentration, and sleep problems, muscle pain or headache, an increased heartbeat, loss of smell or taste, depression or anxiety, fever, and dizziness, according to the Mayo Clinic

In addition to treating the symptoms, Herman said it’s been important for the staff at OHSU to validate their patients’ experiences and encourage both patients and their loved ones to be patient with the recovery process. 

“We help explain to patients that what’s happening to their body’s battery or their energy levels a lot like a cell phone, where every day they don’t start at 100%. They start much lower,” Herman said. 

Herman said long haulers, or long-COVID patients, are at risk of reaching low energy levels very quickly. 

He said the symptoms patients have been reporting since OHSU’s clinic opened haven’t changed much. He said it’s too soon to tell if the delta variant of COVID-19 is causing different concerts in long haulers, but did say the clinic is concerned by the number of patients falling ill due to the delta variant. 

“With the delta variant causing more COVID, we will see more long COVID. So, the more we can prevent COVID, the more we can prevent long COVID – and even more reason that we strongly encourage everyone to wear their masks, and to get vaccinated,” he said. 

Herman said he wants patients to know they aren’t alone. For some patients, the recovery from post-COVID syndrome could take a very long time, but Herman hopes that with the supportive care OHSU is providing, most patients will get better.

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