January, 2022

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Most people who catch COVID get better relatively quickly. 

But some have long-term problems after recovering from the original infection - even if they weren't very ill in the first place.


"I'm just terrified"


Cheryl spent almost a month in the hospital with COVID before being discharged a year ago. She thought the worst was behind her, but her symptoms did not improve.

"13 months on, I still have shortness of breath and heart palpitations,” she says. She struggled just to take care of herself, and returning to work was out of the question. She couldn’t climb two flights of stairs and suffered daily with fatigue, nausea, joint pain and insomnia.

Current estimates suggest that nearly a quarter of people suspected of having had COVID-19 still have symptoms 4 weeks after their infections, and 14% still have symptoms 12 weeks post-infection.

When her symptoms persisted, Cheryl didn’t know where to turn. “There was no information for me, and I felt so alone,” she remembers. It was only when she read that the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program was accepting COVID patients that she began to find some measure of relief through breathing exercises and other coping techniques.

“I'm still not the person I used to be, physically, mentally, or emotionally,” Cheryl says. “My lungs are severely scarred and I can’t work or play with my son like I used to. I have to take it not one day at a time, but one morning or one afternoon. Sometimes even one hour.”

For many people living with Long COVID, the fear and uncertainty can be crushing. “This is a life-changer,” Cheryl says, noting that she doesn’t interact with anyone but her husband and son, not even her two adult daughters. “Covid is still very much alive and I'm terrified to contract it again,” she says. “I'm just terrified.”


Long COVID health supports

Post-COVID symptoms can affect multiple organ systems, and vary by patient. 

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • extreme tiredness
  • shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration ("brain fog")
  • changes to taste and smell
  • joint pain

But other symptoms have been identified including hallucinations, insomnia, hearing and vision changes, short-term memory loss and speech and language issues. Some people have been left unable to perform tasks like showering or remembering words.

The Lung Association is working to support people living with Long COVID by:

  • Working with provincial health care leaders to help build a community of care providers 
  • Developing resources for patients and their caregivers
  • Hosting a Facebook support group for those adapting to life after a COVID-19 infection
  • Raising funds for support not provided by the health care system, and related research to improve care and quality of life
Find out more about supports for people with Long COVID

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

January 16-22 was National Non-Smoking Week, dedicated to helping people become nicotine-free. At The Lung Association, Manitoba we know that there are many ways to quit smoking or vaping, including using Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT).

Nicotine is the main addictive substance in tobacco and can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. NRT provides your body with some nicotine – in the form of gum, patches, sprays, inhalers, or lozenges – without the other harmful chemicals in tobacco.

NRT can help relieve some of the physical withdrawal symptoms so that you can focus on the psychological and emotional aspects of quitting.

Some NRT options include:

  • Nicotine patches – a long-acting option that provides a measured dose of nicotine through your skin. You’re slowly weaned off nicotine dependence by switching to lower-dose patches over the course of several weeks.

  • Nicotine gums, lozenges, inhalers and mouth sprays – fast-acting nicotine replacements that can be used as cravings arise or on a set schedule throughout the day. You can slowly taper down usage as your body adjusts to less nicotine. Some heavy smokers have success combining the slow-release of a nicotine patch with a shorter-acting product when they feel strong cravings.

  • Oral medications – Champix or Zyban are prescription medications that are taken as a pill. They don’t contain nicotine, but help cut cravings by blocking the nicotine receptors in your brain. These medications make smoking a cigarette less satisfying, and trigger some of the same reward effects as nicotine to help reduce withdrawal symptoms.

Any Nicotine Replacement Therapy should only be used as advised by your healthcare provider, but many studies have shown that using one or more types of NRT can nearly double the chances of quitting smoking. Call 204-774-5501 or visit the link below for more information on NRT or other smoking cessation methods.

Are you thinking about quitting smoking?

Sources for this newsletter:

BBC Health

Canadian Journal of Health Technologies

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