Salma Hayek Reveals She Had a Life-Threatening Case of COVID-19—And Still Has Symptoms

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Salma Hayek shared that she battled a serious case of COVID-19 early on in the pandemic. The actor spoke about her scary illness, lengthy recovery, and the lasting aftermath for the first time in a new interview with Variety

Hayek’s case of COVID-19 was particularly severe. “My doctor begged me to go to the hospital because it was so bad,” Hayek told the magazine. “I said, ‘No, thank you. I’d rather die at home.’” Although Hayek never checked into a hospital, she did need to receive supplemental oxygen at one point during her illness. She ended up needing to spend around seven weeks quarantining in one room of her home, away from her husband and their 13-year-old daughter. 

Hayek spent the majority of 2020 recovering from the virus, and that to this day, she has yet to return to her previous energy levels, Variety reports. The actor only returned to work in April 2021. Hayek said she is grateful that her filming schedule for the project was light, given how much more easily she gets fatigued these days. “It was not a lot of time,” Hayek said. “It was easy. It was the perfect job to just get back into it.” But Hayek gets fatigued even by Zoom meetings, she said. “I had started doing Zooms at one point, but I could only do so many because I would get so tired.”

Fatigue is one of the most common lingering symptoms of COVID-19. It’s not clear why COVID long-haulers experience symptoms for a long time (usually weeks or months) after they are cured of the infection, which some experts call post-acute COVID-19 syndrome. Because long COVID is a relatively new illness (even more recently developed than COVID-19), experts still have a lot more to learn about it. Studies offer differing estimates for how common it is, exactly, and how long it lasts. (One study published in The Lancet in January found that, of 1,655 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in China, 76% reported at least one symptom remained six months after being discharged.)

There are likely a variety of possible underlying causes of these lasting symptoms, which can also include brain fog and difficulty breathing. Because COVID-19 is a systemic infection that can trigger inflammation throughout the body, especially in severe cases, there can be lasting impacts in various bodily systems. For example, long-lasting fatigue could be a result of heart problems, muscular issues, or depression, Aaron E. Bunnell, M.D., assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, told SELF previously. All of those issues can be related to COVID-19 or the mental health effects of spending so much time in a hospital. There’s also a possibility that COVID-19 can trigger chronic fatigue syndrome, which is a complicated and not well-understood disorder characterized by severe fatigue that doesn’t get better with rest, the Mayo Clinic explains.

Treating the lasting effects of COVID-19 depends on a person’s specific symptoms and may involve some trial and error, experts say. For example, some COVID-19 long-haulers can benefit from a combination of physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Fortunately, a lot of research is being done to better understand long COVID. The National Institutes of Health is studying the mechanisms behind the phenomenon, who it affects, and possible preventive measures and treatments, so that fewer people have to deal with the long-term effects of COVID-19. So people who are dealing with long COVID, like Hayek, may soon have more answers. 

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Originally Appeared on SELF