How Long Does Post-Viral Fatigue Last?

By

Ben Ahrens, HHP

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Published on

June 05, 2024

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Updated on

June 05, 2024

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Ari Magill

COVID-19

Post-viral fatigue, also known as post-viral syndrome, is a condition in which an individual experiences fatigue and other symptoms for a prolonged period of time following a viral infection. The duration of post-viral fatigue can vary from person to person, depending on several factors. In this article, we will explore the question, "How long does post-viral fatigue last?".

What Is Post-Viral Fatigue?

Post-viral fatigue is a condition that can occur after a viral infection, such as influenza, the common cold, or COVID-19. The exact cause of post-viral fatigue is not yet fully understood, but it is thought to be related to the body's immune response to the virus. In some cases, the immune system may continue to produce inflammatory proteins even after the initial infection has been cleared from the body, leading to persistent symptoms, including brain fog, nervous system dysregulation, fatigue, and ongoing prolonged flu-like symptoms. 

Other common symptoms of post-viral fatigue include:

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain and joint pain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Decrease in sleep quality
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes

How Long Does Post-Viral Fatigue Last?

The duration of post-viral fatigue can vary from person to person. In some cases, symptoms may only last a few weeks or months, while in other cases, they can persist for several years. It is important to note that post-viral fatigue is not the same as the acute fatigue that can occur during a viral infection. Acute fatigue typically lasts a few days to a few weeks and resolves on its own as the body recovers from the infection.

What Are The Influencing Factors? 

Several factors can influence the duration of post-viral fatigue, including:

  • The type of virus: Different viruses can cause different levels of inflammation and immune response, which can affect the severity and duration of post-viral fatigue.
  • Age and overall health: Older adults and individuals with pre-existing health conditions may be more susceptible to persistent symptoms.
  • Severity of the infection: Individuals who experience more severe symptoms during a viral infection may be more likely to experience post-viral fatigue.
  • Treatment: Treatment for the viral infection, such as antiviral medications, can also impact the duration of post-viral fatigue.

How Is Post-Viral Fatigue Treated?

While there is no magic bullet for post-viral fatigue, certain treatments can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. With perseverance and the regenerative power of our own nervous systems, full recovery is possible. Treatment options may include:

  • Rest and Pacing: It is important for individuals with post-viral fatigue to get adequate rest and avoid overexertion. Pacing activities and taking frequent breaks can help conserve energy and prevent symptoms from exacerbating.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT can help individuals manage negative thoughts and feelings associated with their symptoms and develop coping strategies. Mental stress is a primary driver of physical fatigue and chronic disease states through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. It also leads to inflammation through the interconnections between the mind, brain, and immune system. These interconnections are the subject of a scientific field of study known as psychoneuroimmunology.
  • Graded exercise therapy (GET): This involves gradually increasing physical activity over time to improve stamina, reduce symptoms, and avoid tiredness. It is important to note that GET should be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional to prevent exacerbation of symptoms.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as antidepressants or pain relievers, may be prescribed to manage specific symptoms.
  • Neuroplasticity or “Brain Retraining”: This science-based training technique uses the inherent properties of the nervous system to rearrange itself at the level of neurons (nerve cells) and modify its interconnections and signaling pathways to heal. Negative thought patterns are recognized and gradually eliminated, replaced with positive neuronal connections.  

Long COVID-19 & Post-Viral Fatigue

Long COVID-19, also known as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), is a condition in which individuals experience long-term symptoms after a COVID-19 infection, even if their initial symptoms are mild or asymptomatic. The symptoms of long COVID-19 can be similar to post-viral fatigue but can also include new or worsening symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations, and neurological symptoms like brain fog, confusion, or memory issues. 

The exact cause of long COVID-19 is not yet fully understood, but it is thought to be related to the body's immune response to the virus, as well as potential damage to organs and tissues that can occur during the acute infection.1

Long COVID-19 and post-viral fatigue are very similar. Although long COVID often lasts longer in conventional literature, both conditions can persist for years. One difference is that coronavirus can sometimes cause more severe or life-threatening symptoms, particularly in individuals who were hospitalized for coronavirus or required intensive care.

Post-Viral Fatigue & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Post-viral fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) share some similarities in terms of symptoms and mechanisms. Both conditions can cause persistent fatigue and other symptoms after a viral infection, and the causes of both conditions are not yet fully understood. However, CFS is a distinct clinical diagnosis that requires a specific set of diagnostic criteria, while post-viral fatigue is a broader term that can encompass fatigue after any viral infection.

Sleep Hygiene, Self-Care, And Exercising With PVF 

Daily activities can play an important role in managing post-viral fatigue. While it is important to rest and pace activities to prevent overexertion, staying active can also help improve energy levels, mood, and overall physical functioning. Engaging in low-impact activities such as walking, yoga, or swimming can be helpful, as well as incorporating gentle strength and flexibility exercises. 

Additionally, establishing a consistent sleep schedule and practicing good sleep hygiene can also improve fatigue and other symptoms. It is important to listen to your body and adjust activity levels as needed, but incorporating regular physical activity into daily routines can be a valuable tool in managing post-viral fatigue.

Managing post-viral fatigue not only involves physical activity but also requires attention to mental health. Experiencing persistent symptoms can take a toll on mental health, and it is essential to prioritize self-care and engage in activities that promote emotional well-being. Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help reduce stress and improve mood. 

Engaging in social activities, even if they are virtual such as productive use of social media, can also help prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness. Additionally, seeking professional support, such as counseling or therapy, can be a valuable tool in managing post-viral fatigue and improving mental health. Prioritizing mental health and seeking appropriate support can help individuals with post-viral fatigue maintain a positive outlook and improve their overall quality of life. 

At re-origin, we provide a supportive community of individuals going through the same struggles you are. We offer group coaching to reinforce neuroplasticity techniques and unleash the power we each have in our brains and nervous systems to heal.

Conclusion

In conclusion, post-viral fatigue can last for varying lengths of time and is influenced by several factors, including the type of virus, age and overall health, severity of the infection, and treatment. If you are experiencing persistent fatigue or other symptoms following a viral infection, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and medical advice.

While there is no single cure for post-viral fatigue, treatment can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. And there is reason to be hopeful as many people are reporting tremendous benefits from brain retraining programs such as the one re-origin provides.

References

  1. Davis, H. E., McCorkell, L., Vogel, J. M., & Topol, E. J. (2023). Long COVID: major findings, mechanisms and recommendations. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 1-14.

By

Ben Ahrens, HHP

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