The OT Magazine – Jul / Aug 2020

Page 60


Sally Callow is the founder of ME Foggy Dog, an ME advocacy platform and managing director of Stripy Lightbulb CIC, an online training platform about ME/CFS, she also lives with ME/CFS. Here, she highlights the very real possibility that the coronavirus could trigger ME/CFS or a similar illness in those who have contracted the virus. weren’t hospitalised or tested for COVID-19 during their acute infection, they are not included in any COVID-19 statistics. Here are the seven key indicators of ME/CFS as stated on the ME Association website: 1 Post-exertional malaise or symptom exacerbation - a key characteristic of ME/CFS. Symptoms worsen significantly after activity has taken place. This reaction can be felt on the same day but also after a delay of 24-72 hours. 2 Exercise-induced muscle fatigue - which may be accompanied by muscle pain. 3 Cognitive dysfunction - problems with short-term memory and working memory, concentration and attention span issues, and word finding abilities. 4 Pain - can be persistent and difficult to control. Pain can be muscular, rheumatic or neuropathic. However, a significant minority of patients experience little or no pain.


ost cases of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), otherwise known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), are triggered by viruses. This is why, since the very beginning of the pandemic, as an ME/ CFS patient advocate and creator of an online training company about ME/CFS, I have been warning that COVID-19 is highly likely to trigger ME/CFS, or an ME/ CFS-like illness, in some patients regardless of whether they had severe or mild COVID-19 symptoms. It has been shown that the original SARS outbreak between 2002-2004 triggered ME/CFS in some patients. It is important that occupational therapists are able to identify cases of potential ME/CFS and understand how best to support those patients. Early identification and support may prevent a deterioration into severe ME/ CFS which can, in some cases, cause the patient to be confined to their home. Internationally, thousands of post-COVID-19 patients have joined online support groups on social media looking for support and advice from fellow patients after finding themselves still unwell over eight weeks after the acute infection. Thousands of mild COVID-19 patients 60


5 Sleep disturbance – insomnia, restlessness, sleep deprivation. 6 On-going, flu-like malaise - a general feeling of ‘being unwell’ that is accompanied by a sore throat, tender lymph glands and problems with temperature control. 7 Autonomic symptoms - including orthostatic intolerance. Autonomic symptoms are very common in ME/CFS, and orthostatic intolerance refers to difficulties remaining upright. Many post-COVID-19 patients are complaining of postexertion malaise after undertaking any exertion, this is the key defining characteristic of ME/CFS. Therefore, rest should always be recommended post viral infection. Most post-COVID-19 patients are complaining about having most, if not all, of the seven symptoms above. As with ME/CFS, post-COVID-19 is not psychological; understandably patients are becoming distressed and frustrated when GPs are not recognising their symptoms and, in some cases, prescribing antidepressants rather than dealing with their ongoing physical symptoms.

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