Post-viral fatigue is a form of chronic fatigue syndrome, developing after a viral infection (1), and is categorised as an extended period of unwellness. Post-viral fatigue can be part of a normal recovery, and will most likely stay with you for a while after the infection itself has cleared, but can leave the sufferer feeling very poorly and struggling to function.
"We all experience tiredness at times, which can be relieved by sleep and rest. Fatigue is when the tiredness is often overwhelming and isn't relieved by sleep and rest." (2).
Time to read: 15 minutes
- What can you do about fatigue?
- Diet & nutrition
- Light graded exercise
"We all experience tiredness at times, which can be relieved by sleep and rest. Fatigue is when the tiredness is often overwhelming and isn't relieved by sleep and rest."
According to the NHS (2) and the BMJ (3), symptoms you may notice include:
- Needing a lot more sleep than usual
- Sore muscles that fatigue a lot quicker than usual
- Prolonged tiredness after activity
- Musculoskeletal pain, or joint pain
- Being unsteady on your feet
- Neurocognitive disturbance: difficulty with memory or concentration
- Mood disturbance: feeling overly unhappy or stressed, severe anxiety, sleep disturbance, nightmares, etc.
According to the same BMJ paper, fatigue after infections may persist for twelve months, and the severity of the illness is predictive of the post-infective fatigue syndrome (over other factors such as demographic). Other research suggests that this fatigued state could be much longer, and that only 60% of
This condition can have a knock on effect on mental health, mental performance, relationships and more, impacting people's lives further than simply feeling unwell.
There's evidence to suggest that millions of people worldwide could be living with a condition that's been (unofficially) dubbed "long covid", characterised by New Scientist Magazine as "a debilitating syndrome that follows a coronavirus infection" (5). The most common reported symptoms are a headache and fatigue, but also shortness of breath and prolonged chest pain. Some of the more extreme reported symptoms include rashes, fever, hair loss, numbness, muscular pain and diarrhoea.
The statistics of reported symptoms such as fatigue or brain fog after a coronavirus infection, align closely with those of other post viral syndromes (6), and it's been suggested that even asymptomatic coronavirus patients may yet go on to develop "long covid" even though they might not know they had coronavirus in the first place.
What can you do about post viral syndrome, and fatigue?
Fatigue conditions are hard to diagnose, and can be even harder to resolve. There is sadly very limited treatment choices in terms of medical interventions, and patients can be left feeling stuck and isolated in their illness, an invisible condition that is nonetheless impacting them severely and on a daily basis. For most sufferers, the most tangible improvements come from lifestyle changes and holistic nurturing that improves overall health, and equips the body with the nutrients and resources it needs to recover.
If you are experiencing unusual levels of fatigue, a post-viral syndrome -or know someone that is - here are some tried and tested lifestyle adaptions that are some of the easiest way to up your energy levels naturally.
Dietary & Nutrition
A healthy, balanced diet is always appropriate – and focusing on this area during a post viral period is of the upmost importance. We can often reach for comfort food during an illness, plus the body uses more nutrients to fight the virus off, leaving you weak and depleted.
Anecdotal evidence reports improvements in energy and health when the individual is focuses on increasing their intake of vitamin-rich foods, mainly fruit and vegetables, particularly those full of antioxidants, vitamin C or rich in chlorophyl plant energy (these are dark green in colour). The easiest way to pack more of these into your diet when you're feeling low is through soups, smoothies and fresh juices as they're easy to make, fresh, and can be consumed and digested with minimal effort.
There's evidence to suggest that consuming protein – not just carbohydrates - is key to staving off fatigue, especially early in the day when cortisol levels are high. (6) To keep your energy up, you should be eating little and often over the day, will also help to keep your blood sugar up prevent you from crashing and feeling weak (7).
When fighting a virus, replenishing yourself with vitamins can give your body a much-needed boost, and help to starve off further viruses while you are depleted. You can easily gain the right amount of vitamins from a balanced diet, but if you are deficient, it can be very useful to bridge the shortfall using supplements. A good all-round multi-vitamin and mineral are a good base. Vitamins C, D and Zinc are the main micronutrients used by the body to fight off Covid-19, and so can be easily depleted and are vital to protect you from a reoccurrence of the virus. Similarly, the Covid-19 virus attacks existing areas of, and creates additional inflammation in the body. Supplementing and eating a diet high in healthy Omega 3 fats can help to reduce this level of inflammation in your body, and help you feel better overall.
We recommend utilising the advice of qualified nutritionists such as the from the Institute of Optimum Nutrition, for dosages and advice on a healthy regime.
Rest is crucial for any type of recovery and proper immune function, and this means ensuring you get the right amount and quality of sleep, and that your lifestyle promotes resting sufficiently during the day.
Sleep is a natural, restorative process, and ‘normal' sleep and circadian system supports relation between the immune system and central nervous system (8). Without quality sleep, you'll not only experience physical fatigue and feeling tied, but you'll find it much harder to focus and have generally lower moods. Quality sleep during post-viral fatigue can seem even harder to achieve with the combination of painful muscles, tired but wired exhaustion and the emotional repercussions of the viral infection.
For better sleep, we strongly suggest focusing on sleep hygiene, improving your routine, surroundings and comfort to ensure a better, longer and less disturbed sleep. This could include keeping a dark, quiet bedroom, switching away from blue light emitting appliances before sleep, or using comfortable bedding to support your sore muscles. Establishing and maintaining a wind-down routine can be invaluable to sleep success. Hot showers before bed can ease aching muscles and help your body to drop its temperature ready for a deep sleep. Anecdotal evidence has found that low doses of CBD oil can help to relax, and supplements that promote melatonin such as 5HTP, can also help. Warm drinks, herbal relaxants and supplements can help you feel relaxed and can be a good natural alternative to sleeping medications.
During the day, you can prime yourself for better sleep that night by stimulating your natural melatonin supply (the chemical that creates deep restful sleep). Some of the easiest, most effective ways to do this is to gain adequate exposure to natural light during the day, and to add nutrition from tart cherries into your diet, that is naturally shown to elongate sleep. (9) Adding magnesium into your day as a supplement, topical cream or bath can help to further relax the sore muscles further and supports deeper sleep.
If you struggle to mentally switch off, listening to gentle sounds, music, or an audiobook can help distract the mind from pain and anxiety while you drift off. If sleep still doesn't come, getting up and walking around, stretching and foam rolling can help soothe sore, tight muscles.
Sufferers of post-viral fatigue can also benefit from wearing KYMIRA infrared to help promote longer, high quality sleep, relaxation of tight muscles and pain relief to help them stay asleep. Infrared waves promote better sleep and the Nitric Oxide produced by the chemical reaction in the wearer is a natural muscle relaxant and pain reliever, by stimulating the same chemical pathways as an opiate naturally. Wearers of our products have reported a 15.9% improvement in sleep quality, a 15.8% improvement in levels of fatigue, and a 13.6% reduction in overall daily soreness, just from sleeping in the clothing alone.
As well as the sleep improvements noted above, the use of infrared therapy (which is present in all KYMIRA clothing), has been shown to boost energy availability in the body at a cellular level, improve circulation and other side effects of inactivity, as well as offering continual natural pain relief support - all important for post-viral recovery.
A favourite effect among sufferers is the pain-relieving properties, the stimulation of Nitric Oxide activates another chemical called Cyclic Guanosine Monophosphate (or cGMP for short). This is a process that inhibits pain receptors while you wear infrared products. Wearers of our infrared garments report a 25% reduction in their perceived pain scores and we the more often the clothing can be worn, the more long lasting relief you can expect to experience.
In elite athletes KYMIRA is shown to support them to perform at their peak for longer and to feel less fatigued during and after physical exertion. In instances of chronic fatigue or stiff sore muscles, low energy infrared produces a similar energy maximising effect for the wearer. The passive nature of the technology means you're treating your condition with a medically certified product while you rest, and wearers report accelerated rehabilitation across many conditions when utilising KYMIRA.
This is a technique used for a multitude of chronic conditions that cause fatigue and as you might have guessed from the name, this technique involves pacing yourself throughout the day. With this technique you align your daily activities to your available energy, and strive to not exceed this but to support your body to heal and to avoid inducing severe bouts of fatigue or worsening of the condition by pushing through exhaustion.
Getting used to a slower life, learning where your boundaries are and learning to stop yourself doing too much can feel very frustrating at first, especially when it involves saying no to things you'd like to do - but over time this will help your body recover. With this technique, it's especially important to set realistic goals for your day and to adjust as needed during the day.
We'd also recommend keeping a diary over the course of the infection and recovery process and to regularly log how you feel in a day, what helps, where your energy wanes and at what times, so you can plan your days accordingly. Practicing mindfulness in this way also helps you tune in to your body, so you can understand when it is asking to stop and when it is reasonable to continue. Over time, it will also help you to notice your improvements, help you goal set and give you reassurance to continue your work to recover.
Light Graded Exercise
In development of the pacing adaptions, introducing light, graded exercise is also found to be highly beneficial in building up energy levels and tolerances, and is offered as a treatment plan by many medical practitioners for post-viral fatigue. You must start small, at whatever level you are, whether that is a walk around the block or up and down the stairs a couple of times. Over the days and weeks ahead, build up slowly, adding a little further, a few steps more each day or each couple of days.
Although not all the effects of long covid and post-viral fatigue are fully understood, we hope these tips from other sufferers, scientific resources and our infrared technology will help you recover from your fatigue. Please make sure you undertake any activities under the guidance and recommendation of your Doctor or Medical Practitioner.References
- A Dictionary of Psychology (4 ed.), Andrew M. Colman, Oxford University Press, 2015.
- Post-infective and chronic fatigue syndromes precipitated by viral and non-viral pathogens: prospective cohort study, Ian Hickie (psychiatrist), Tracey Davenport (biostatistician), Denis Wakefield (immunologist), Ute Vollmer-Conna (psychologist), Barbara Cameron, research fellow2, Suzanne D Vernon, molecular virologist4, William C Reeves, epidemiologist4, Andrew Lloyd, BMJ 2006; 333.
- M.E. - POST VIRAL FATIGUE SYNDROME, Dr. K. E. FEGAN, MRCGP, DObstRCOG General Practitioner, West Kilbride, Ayrshire
- Long covid: Why are some people sick months after catching the virus?, Jessica Hamzelou, 28 October 2020 (https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24833064-100-long-covid-why-are-some-people-sick-months-after-catching-the-virus/#ixzz6cwgBraqz )
- 9 tips to boost your energy — naturally, Harvard Health Publishing (Harvard Medical School)
- The Fatigue Solution: How To Increase Your Energy In Eight Easy Steps, Jenna Goudreau, Forbes.com, April 2012. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2012/04/02/the-fatigue-solution-how-to-increase-your-energy-in-eight-easy-steps/#129707fc3889 )
- Impact of Sleep, Sleep, Loss and Recovery Sleep on Immunity, Fathia Hussien Mohamed, Vol 30 No 4 (2019): Gazi Medical Journal
- Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, McHugh MP, Ellis J. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Dec;51(8):909-16. doi: 10.1007/s00394-011-0263-7
- Can exercise limits prevent post-exertional malaise in chronic fatigue syndrome? An uncontrolled clinical trial, Nijs J, Almond F, De Becker P, Truijen S, Paul L., Clin Rehabil. 2008 May;22(5):426-35. doi: 10.1177/0269215507084410. PMID: 18441039.
- NHS England. After-care needs of inpatients recovering from COVID-19. Jun 2020. https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/publication/after-care-needs-of-inpatients-recovering-from-covid-19/