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Recovering from a COVID-19 infection: Take it slow

With COVID-19 still very much present in Australia, there is a possibility you will become infected with the virus at some point if you haven’t already.

Last updated: September 1st 2022
After a COVID-19 infection, you should prioritise your own health and not jump straight back into your old routine. [Source: iStock]

After a COVID-19 infection, you should prioritise your own health and not jump straight back into your old routine. [Source: iStock]

Key points:

  • A COVID-19 infection can leave you feeling weak and exhausted during the recovery period
  • You should avoid jumping back into your normal routine and instead ease back into your day-to-day life over a couple of weeks
  • If your symptoms persist past a couple of months, you may be experiencing long COVID-19

Depending on the person, COVID-19 can be a walk in the park with a couple of sniffles here and there or you may experience more severe symptoms that result in a stint in hospital.

And there are many interventions used to ensure you are safe from the full effect of the virus, like vaccines and anti-viral medication.

While a lot is already mapped out on what you should do if you get COVID-19 and how to take care of yourself during that time, what about after you are no longer infectious?

Many people experience a range of symptoms well after a COVID-19 infection and they can be debilitating in a whole different way compared to when you actually were positive with the virus.

What COVID-19 can leave behind

After a COVID-19 infection, you may find recovery can take anywhere between a week to a couple of months to feel fully yourself again.

Recovery from COVID can occur differently between people, some people will bounce back right after an infection, while others take longer – which is similar to any other illness you pick up over your lifetime.

Symptoms you may notice include:

  • Fatigue
  • Chest discomfort
  • A persistent cough
  • Issues with your sense of smell or taste
  • Headaches
  • Runny nose
  • Pain in your joints or muscles
  • Sleeping issues

Your age can be a factor in your recovery from a COVID-19 infection, as well as your overall health and whether you experienced severe symptoms from the virus.

Here are a number of tips for recovering in the weeks following a COVID-19 infection:

Ease back into routine

If you can, avoid jumping straight back into your day-to-day routine and activities.

While you may have missed your regular pilates session while isolating, you may find you need to stay off the mat for another few weeks to make sure you are fit and well again.

If you are adamant about going to an event, like your weekly bowls competition, go to watch and socialise instead of participating.

But always be prepared to head home if you find the socialising, mingling or physical activity exhausting.

Take it slow

Exhaustion and fatigue can hit you at any time during the recovery process after a COVID-19 infection.

Try not to rush yourself after a COVID-19 infection. It can be frustrating to feel weak after a virus, but it is reasonable to take things slower than you would if you were at the peak of your form.

This may mean dropping a couple of volunteering shifts until you are fully recovered or changing your social calendar to tea and coffee catchups rather than lunches at the local club.

If you have a list of things you need to do during the day, try to spread the tasks out over your whole day with adequate breaks. If you are finding these tasks exhausting, try prioritising the important tasks and getting assistance from family and friends for the rest.

Eat and drink

Just as you should be taking care of yourself prior to a COVID-19 infection and during a COVID-19 infection, you should also be taking care of your body after your infectious period.

Eating well and drinking lots of water gives your body the adequate fuel and hydration needed to recover from illness. You can learn more about nutrition in our article, ‘The importance of elderly nutrition‘.

Your recovery relies on your overall health, and nutrition and hydration can play a part in that.

You should be eating regularly and eating snacks that are high in energy and protein throughout the day.

Dehydration can be really dangerous for older Australians, as this demographic already struggles to retain water, so it is important you stay hydrated. You can read more about this in our article, ‘Hydration for elderly people and the dangers of dehydration‘.

Rest when you need it

It is important not to overexert yourself after a COVID-19 infection.

You may find your daily walk around your neighbourhood is leaving you out of breath compared to a couple of weeks ago.

This can be a normal thing to experience after being infected with the virus. Instead, try not to push yourself too much and listen to your body when you need to rest.

You may find an odd nap here and there assists with your recovery and gives your body more time to repair itself.

Reach out to your support networks

After a stint with COVID-19 in isolation, it is important to connect with your family and friends.

Being in isolation for five to seven days can take a toll on your mental health, however, you may find social interaction during your recovery stage difficult and exhausting.

Keeping connected and reaching out for help is really important, and you should try your best to be engaged in some way with family and friends, whether that is a short 10-minute phone call or a coffee catchup at home.

Check in with your doctor

Not everyone will recover the same from a COVID-19 infection.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) suggests visiting your General Practitioner (GP) around six weeks after you come out of isolation from COVID-19.

During this check in with your GP, you can discuss any concerns and put adequate interventions in place to get you back into your normal routine.

This could be medication to assist with any continuing symptoms, like for a persistent cough or sleeping issues, or light exercise to strengthen your body.

If you find your symptoms or issues have persisted past a couple of months you may be experiencing long COVID, which you should talk to your doctor about.

How was your recovery after a COVID-19 infection? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

COVID-19 rebound – what is it?
Importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine as an older person
Returning to volunteering after a COVID-19 break


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