Coronavirus: How to lessen the likelihood of getting long COVID, according to an immunologist

While Omicron is milder in terms of its symptoms, those who get infected with it can still develop long COVID.

Long COVID is a term used to describe the effects of the virus that continue for weeks or months beyond someone's initial illness. 

Although most symptoms will resolve in four weeks, for some it can go on for months and it heavily affects people's lives.

Dr Anna Brooks, an immunologist and senior lecturer at the University of Auckland, has been researching long COVID in New Zealand and says there's one thing people can do to lessen the likelihood of dealing with the virus long term.

"The obvious way to not get long COVID is to try and avoid getting infected, so high rates of vaccination are going to help with that, masking, and all those measures that we need to keep doing," she told The Project.

"Then in the unfortunate event that you do get and you come down with Omicron, then it's just a matter of looking after yourself and resting. That extends well beyond your recovery phase as well.

"That's what's so mysterious, if you like, about the later onset of long COVID, which can kick in one month to three months later, so it's a matter of not pushing through."

Dr Anna Brooks.
Dr Anna Brooks. Photo credit: The Project

Brooks says anyone can get long COVID, even healthier people.

"Essentially, loads of healthy people that said 'I have nothing wrong with me' and now they have long COVID," she says.

"So it seems to be inflicting a lot of our younger generation because I guess you might notice more strongly that you were out running every day and now you're completely wiped out."

Brooks talks to people with long COVID regularly as part of her research and says the biggest thing they say if you get infected is to rest.

"If there's one thing everyone is saying is, 'Oh my goodness, if you get this, listen to your body and rest', and that includes any exertion," she says.

"You'll soon notice if [long COVID] is kicking in because you'll take much longer to recover."