What Recovery From COVID-19 Is Really Like, According To Women Who’ve Had It
For the past six months, most of our attention has been focused on how to avoid catching COVID-19, and how to help the people who do contract it survive. What's getting less attention is what happens after you've recovered from the disease. But as of press time, 2,153,726 people have recovered from coronavirus. And many are experiencing unexpectedly long-lasting and intense symptoms.
"This is a very real issue," says Paul Pottinger, MD, director of the Infectious Diseases & Tropical Medicine Clinic at the UW Medical Center. "Infectious disease doctors around the country have known for a long time that certain viral infections can do this. It's not unique to COVID, which is good news — it gives me hope."
While there are no official figures yet on how common persistent symptoms of coronavirus are, Dr. Pottinger says that one in four people who'd had the SARS-CoV-1 virus (which is similar to SARS-CoV-2, the strain that's causing the current pandemic) were still experiencing symptoms a month after recovery. In a recent study, two to three weeks after testing positive for COVID-19, 35% of people still didn't feel back to normal, according to a report on the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention site. Another new paper found that around 75% of recovered COVID-19 patients had structural changes to their hearts, two months after recovering.
"We don't know why it happens. It's a neglected area of science. But it's very real," Dr. Pottinger says. "It may be that these patients survived the viral infection because they have a very robust, active immune response. That kills off the infection, but it has consequences for the entire body."
He says the repercussions of this immune response likely include long-term symptoms such as chronic, debilitating fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disturbances.
Dr. Pottinger adds that many COVID-19 survivors also report that their sense of smell and taste remain altered for weeks or months. "The olfactory nerves that provide us with a sense of smell can be harmed by the virus, and nerves are slow to grow," he explains. "It remains to be determined whether all those people will make a full recovery, but I wouldn't lose hope."
Another common issue is chest pain, shortness of breath, and difficulty exercising. "It makes perfect sense. For some patients, the virus goes into the lungs. When that happens, it may cause collateral damage," Dr. Pottinger says. "Lungs are delicate, but they also have a robust ability to heal themselves, so while we need more time to understand how these patients will make a full recovery of pulmonary function, I'd remain optimistic that they will."
While there's not much people can do to speed up their recovery from symptoms like fatigue and loss of smell, lung repair might be accelerated by exercising, he says. After they get the okay from their doctor, a person suffering from this symptom should start by doing whatever physical activity they can — even just walking for 10 minutes — then gradually push the duration and/or intensity of their activity.
Dr. Pottinger also urges people going through this to reach out to their medical provider to see if additional screenings are necessary. If chest pain is a real problem, for instance, they may need their lung damage assessed; if the mood-related symptoms are debilitating, they may need screening for depression.
He adds that social support is key to recovery: People should tell their loved ones what they're going through, and consider participating in a support group for survivors (some of whom call themselves "long haulers"), which are popping up on online forums, on Facebook, and on Reddit.
"It's still so early in the pandemic. But the fact that we don't understand these disorders and can't treat them doesn't mean they're not real," Dr. Pottinger says. "I want to emphasize: We can't predict who will have bad symptoms, regardless of age, lung health, and other risk factors. We could really break the back of this within six weeks, it just requires everyone to do it. So please, follow the rules regarding covering your face and maintaining personal space," he urges. "Many people really wish they'd never been infected."
Swipe through for the stories of seven such women.
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People known as "long-haulers" continue suffering for months after testing positive for COVID-19. Yahoo Life spoke to five individuals who are experiencing a range of lingering symptoms up to four months after their initial diagnosis.
The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) has advised Americans to wear cloth face masks while out in public to help minimize the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). These precautions were put in place to prevent the spread of the virus by those who are infected with it and are asymptomatic. The CDC advised wearing a cloth face covering when you're out in public places, like grocery stores and pharmacies, where the social-distancing guidelines are harder to follow. For many before the pandemic, face masks were not a part of their at-home collection. Luckily, a selection of retailers have now made protective face coverings available for purchase. For those who do not have masks already or prefer not to make a DIY face mask, buying one is an easy alternative. In order to properly wear a face mask, it must fit closely against the face, be secured with ties or ear loops, include more than one layer of fabric, allow for breathing, and be able to be washed without getting damaged. It's worth noting that while these cloth face coverings are not medical-grade masks like the N95 respirators and surgical masks, which are being reserved for healthcare workers, they are still useful to put on when out in public. Wearing a cloth mask will not ensure protection against ingesting droplets, but it's a precautionary safety measure worth taking. Ahead is a curated list of face masks that are available to buy online, including companies and brands that are doing their part by donating proceeds and masks to charities and hospitals to help those working against the virus. If you don't already have a mask or need another one for yourself or a loved one, shop these picks now and help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Looking for even more options? Check out masks for kids, masks for working out, comfortable masks, masks under $10, masks with ties, masks with filter pockets, and tie-dye masks. Related: 22 Face Masks That'll Go With Everything You Own
There seems to be a secret code among people who menstruate, in which someone mouths, "I started my period," and the other person stealthily passes them a tampon. What's less commonly discussed is the severe bloating, cramping, back pain, and other symptoms that can disrupt an entire school or work day, and for some people, keep them confined in bed all day. In a recent Dutch study, almost 14 percent of people surveyed reported missing work or school due to their periods. Another 80 percent of the study population reported being present at work or school, but losing productivity because of the pain, resulting in about nine days a year lost, according to the authors. On top of that, only 20 percent of the study participants who missed days felt comfortable telling their supervisor or teacher the real reason they were calling out. Why are so many people plagued with such challenging periods? In many cases, there may not be an underlying condition that's to blame for painful periods; sometimes, really bad cramps are simply categorized as primary dysmenorrhea, Alyssa Dweck, MD, an ob-gyn in Westchester County, NY, told POPSUGAR. Other times, period pain is associated with endometriosis or uterine fibroids, benign muscular growths that can appear in the uterus. PCOS is another condition that may not directly cause cramps, but can cause irregular periods and therefore very heavy and sometimes painful bleeding when menstruation finally occurs, Dr. Dweck explained. Severe cramping may also be caused by ovarian cysts or even the insertion of a copper IUD. In some cases of especially painful periods, a doctor might prescribe a prescription pain medication or even a hormonal birth control pill to help better manage the symptoms. But birth control isn't a quick fix for everyone struggling with menstrual pain. "If pain is from another source, such as scar tissue, infection, or mechanical pressure of fibroids, one may need to address those issues in another fashion, including surgical intervention," Dr. Dweck said. Because everyone's periods are different, it's important to track your symptoms to understand what might be going on with your menstrual cycle and causing you to be unable to carry on with your regular routine. But even just knowing that you're not alone can help make painful or heavy periods feel less isolating. Here, four menstruators raise their voices about what it's like to need to miss out on school or work because of their periods, and why more awareness would improve their own well-being. The more we can openly discuss periods and everything that goes along with them, the less taboo they'll become - and the easier it'll be to speak to your own boss when you have cramps that are keeping you from clocking in. Related: There's a Global Movement to End Period Poverty, and Young Women Are Leading the Way
Scientists are scrambling to learn more about how COVID-19 affects kids — and the role they play in spreading it As the new school year starts and many districts are still grappling with how and whether they should open for in-person classes this year, scientists have been scrambling to learn more about how COVID-19 affects 
Disney World is planning to cut park hours less than two months after reopening The coronavirus pandemic is still raging in the U.S., with case counts rising in a number of cities and states across the country. Amid Florida being one of the worst hotspots in the nation, Disney World reopened in July, four months 
With the Democratic National Convention less than a week away, Joe Biden finally announced that Sen. Kamala Harris will be his running mate. Harris is the choice that many predicted he would make, an accomplished Democrat, and an established household name who polls well with Biden supporters. She brings an impressive legislative record and killer charisma. In her short-lived presidential campaign, she was energetic and showed a penchant for zingers and quick comebacks, and picked up momentum when she challenged Biden during a debate on his busing record with a moving personal anecdote about her own history with segregated schools. Becoming not only the first woman vice president, but also the first Black and the first Asian vice president would undoubtedly be an historic achievement contributing to more equitable political representation. If she and Biden win, Harris will have overcome not only long-held skepticism of women in power but also the white supremacist structure that has shut out candidates like herself from major party positions. That deserves a moment of acknowledgement — even celebration — for Harris, her allies in Congress and on the campaign trail, and many Americans.“Vice President Biden is proud to announce Senator Harris as his running mate and believes she will be a great partner,” according to the campaign. “He knows what is needed to be a successful Vice President, and he picked the right person for the job. From getting to know her through his friendship with his son Beau to seeing her take on Trump on the campaign trail, Joe knows she is the kind of leader he wants by his side. The American people — and women across the country — agree she is the kind of leader our nation needs right now who will fight on their behalf and will be ready on day one.” However, it’s hard for some to celebrate this nomination in a full-throated way. For many people — including many Democrats — Biden’s candidacy is already compromised because of his record on issues like banking and crime and treatment of women. To some, Biden’s offering of what is arguably the second-highest position of power in the country feels like handing out crumbs, and the reasons for that are both straightforward and frustrating.The shadow of the 2016 election and the 2020 primary: Despite being leagues more qualified and capable than her counterpart, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lost the election while also facing a barrage of sexist attacks. The framing surrounding her historic run as the first woman candidate of a major political party was incredibly gendered, from Trump’s “nasty woman” comment, to the horrifying shirts worn at Trump rallies, to the outsized media focus on her perceived physical weaknesses. This VP pick is also haunted by the shameful process of the 2020 Democratic primary, during which voters were constantly told that, amid a slate of competent women candidates, it was Joe Biden who was the only electable pick. This reinforced the idea that women are not viable as presidential candidates, and are best used in supporting roles.The announcement: In March during a Democratic debate, Biden announced that his VP pick would be a woman so his administration will “look like the country.” Rather than the empowering olive branch he likely intended, his announcement was seen by many as a symbolic, but ultimately hollow move.The statements from Biden staff: Throughout the last few weeks of the “Veepstakes,” statements from within Biden’s campaign itself were made to indicate that this woman’s power will come with conditions. For example:– Sen. Chris Dodd, a member of Biden’s VP search committee, reportedly campaigned against Harris, saying “she had no remorse” when she attacked Biden at the debate. – Some of Biden’s advisers reportedly said they don’t want a running mate who is positioned to succeed him, or who would overshadow him. This is strange given that he’d be the oldest serving president in history if elected. Sexism from the media: While right-wing media is known for its sexist coverage, mainstream outlets also often portray women candidates as more emotional, more prone to lying, or as less capable of leadership. Women’s organizations recently wrote a letter to the media detailing advice on how to overcome these biases. Unfortunately, while these efforts are laudable (and a welcome correction to what happened in 2016), they will still be ignored by many. (See: L.A. Times’ cringe-worthy Bachelor headline.) One way in which this has played out is the recent framing of Harris as devious (again, “She had no remorse”) in her questioning of Biden on his busing record, when she was asking a legitimate question — and playing politics, as might be expected of a politician. In contrast, Rep. Karen Bass, who was recently rumored to be a top VP option, has been framed as a non-threatening “worker bee” who wouldn’t cause trouble for Biden. These characterizations aren’t just untrue, they’re also damaging. Reportedly, the Biden campaign is trying to get ahead of the sexist coverage and “defend” the nominee, but it remains to be seen how this plays out. Additionally, the idea of having to “protect” a woman nominee takes on an unmistakably patriarchal tone.Biden’s baggage on women: Inevitably, Harris will spend significant energy answering for Biden’s record when it comes to women and Black Americans, including his treatment of Anita Hill during the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas, Tara Reade’s allegations of sexual assault, and his flip-flopping on the Hyde Amendment. As a Black woman, she will also be asked to defend his record of working with segregationists — a point that Harris has brought up against Biden during debates. And as a former prosecutor, she will be pressured to appear focused on “law and order,” which will be complicated given that she’s already garnered criticism for her prosecutorial record from criminal justice advocates, and potentially alienate the left wing of the party. At the same time, Trump will inevitably go after Biden and Harris for being “soft on crime.” It will be uncomfortable, ugly, and ultimately unfair. And, of course, attacks from Trump. Can any woman in the spotlight who opposes him really avoid these? He has already wasted no time calling her “horrible,” “disrespectful,” and “extraordinarily nasty” in relation to her questioning of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his nomination hearings. In some ways, all of this is the perfect encapsulation of what it’s like to be a woman in 2020: Life is a Catch-22 for those who vie for power. If you want it, you’re not supposed to show it. And once you get it, you’ll be attacked for it. Congratulations Kamala, but also we’re so, so sorry.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?What Does Biden Really Think About Kamala Harris?It's Kamala!Kamala Harris On Impeachment & What's Next For Her
Oat milk: for coffee snobs, it's the only milk that exists — and for the rest of us, it's a special treat worthy of the extra 80-or-so cents at our local cafe. The trendiest of all the dairy alternatives is so popular, in fact, that it's now infiltrating the ranks of our favorite beauty products — touching everything from hair to skincare formulas with its nourishing embrace. We already swear by colloidal oatmeal as an incredible cure-all for soothing eczema or irritated skin — and, as it not so surprisingly turns out, oat milk has similar calming benefits that any sapped complexions can and will readily drink up. Ahead, find some of the coolest new beauty launches (plus a few OG-sleeper hits) that feature this new secret-ingredient star. From hidden drugstore gems to luxer fancy-pants spurges, scroll forth into the nine oat-milk-infused goods that (we're calling it) are about to go viral. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?10 Piping-Hot Products Hitting Ulta BeautyThe Epic Beauty Deals From Nordstrom's Major Sale22 Sale Scores Our Beauty Writer Is Adding To Cart
In 2020, the vibe for footwear is largely "Come help me get the groceries out of the car." That is to say that, when most of us aren't at home in our stocking feet, we're bumming around in some sort of slide or trainer, the latter of which SSENSE's epic sale can help upgrade. With styles up to 70% off, the offerings do lean Fashion-y — including a particularly well-known triple-decker silhouette — though you'll also find sneaker-dom's greatest hits, from staple Stan Smiths and Vans Old Skools to Converse Chuck 70s. We've given you a head start here with a selection of some of our favorites, but don't dawdle — the promotion ends August 12, so you'll want to get a move on now. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. The product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?
The other night, I found myself with a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad sunburn (as the fabled Alexander would put it). Now, a burn is painful enough on its own, but — as I learned — it’s especially bad at night. As I tucked myself into bed, sinking into what suddenly felt like sheets made of sandpaper, my skin screamed. That night, I woke up every hour or so in pain, continuously hosing myself down with aloe vera. It was especially annoying, because I’m usually a good sleeper. I sleep through thunder, knocking, sirens — but even my super-strength REM was no match for this burn. Sunburns disrupt sleep in a couple different ways, says Ted Lain, MD, a dermatologist and Chief Medical Officer at Sanova Dermatology. “There is inflammation in the skin that causes the heat, as well as the pain from nerve irritation,” he explains. “The skin feels tight and uncomfortable because it has lost its barrier function, or its ability to retain hydration and protect itself from the environment.” Even worse, you might feel extra-exhausted after being in the sun. That’s because the body is sending fluid to your burnt skin’s surface, dehydrating you, which can tire you out, says Marisa Garshick, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Cornell-New York Presbyterian Medical Center. Plus, your body is working hard at regulating your core temp, draining your energy even more. And yet, you’re unable to nod off and stay asleep.Luckily, there are things you can do to rest a little easier, even when your skin feels like it’s smoldering. The doctors gave me their best tips in exchange for the promise that I’d reapply my SPF more frequently next time. Take an ibuprofen or acetaminophenThese two meds (which can be found in the brands Tylenol and Advil, respectively) will help with the symptoms of a sunburn, as they reduce swelling and inflammation, says Dr. Lain. He adds that ibuprofen has been shown to increase sun sensitivity, though. So if you’re planning on getting any more sun, you may want to stick with Tylenol so you don’t do more damage. Side note: Although there was a brief point in March when health authorities were warning against taking ibuprofen due to concerns regarding COVID-19, the research did not bear out, Dr. Garshick notes. The World Health Organization agreed in April. Use aloe My instinct was correct! “Aloe vera gel is cooling and helps temporarily with discomfort, as do numbing sprays and gels,” Dr. Lain says. “These may be most appropriate if the sunburn is causing nighttime awakenings. But just be careful to follow manufacturer’s directions on how and when to apply the numbing sprays, since overdoing it may lead to a dangerous absorption.” Moisturize This is an important one, says Dr. Garshick. Not only will it help the skin repair itself, it can help with hydration and overall comfort. She recommends a lighter-weight cream in the first 24 hours after a burn, then something heavier after a few days, when this skin is starting to peel. But she advises against exfoliating to accelerate the peeling, or picking at blisters. Pick the right PJsLight cotton PJs or silks are the best fabrics, since they’ll cause less friction against the skin, Dr. Lain says. “Certainly not wearing pajamas is also an alternative,” he adds, which brings us to… And the right sheetsIf you’re going to sleep au naturale, go for cotton or silk bedsheets. Bamboo works too. Dr. Garshick recommends avoiding flannel, wool, and most synthetic fabrics, unless they’re moisture-wicking. Only sleep in the buff when the sheets are clean, she adds. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrateRemember when we mentioned burns are dehydrating? Dr. Garshick recommends keeping a glass of water by the bed, and drinking a little more than you usually would before you nod off. It can also help to take a cold shower right before you head to bed to cool down your body, as it can be hard to fall asleep when you’re too warm. Turn on the A/C before bedYes, it’s not great for your electric bill, but Dr. Lain recommends anything that will cool the skin. A fan works too. When in doubt, go to the doctor If your burn is causing extreme blistering, or is accompanied by symptoms such as severe pain, a high fever, or nausea, it’s worth having a doctor or dermatologist take a look to rule out sun poisoning or heat stroke. “I usually will tell people to have a low threshold for going to the doctor,” Dr. Garshick says. “If you’re in enough pain it’s really noticeable, it’s reasonable to contact a dermatologist. Some people might be taking medicines that are making them more sensitive to the sun, and they might not be aware of it.” If a burn is really severe, your doc might prescribe a short course of steroids, a corticosteroid cream, or a prescription grade moisturizer. Dr. Garshick says she also might give patients a friendly reminder to keep slathering on the sunscreen. “People sometimes think, ‘okay, I’ve done my damage,’ after a burn,” she says. “But when the skin is somewhat injured, it’s more susceptible to further damage.” Lain adds: “Sunburns cause lasting damage to the DNA in the skin cells… This is why sunburns cause so much inflammation and discomfort — it’s the body’s mechanism to persuade you to avoid doing this again!” I certainly found my sleepless night convincing. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Who Needs Bikinis? One-Pieces To Buy InsteadHow To Heal Your Scorched Skin — FastThe Aloe Vera Products That Will Heal Your Sunburn