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I Recovered From COVID-19. Why Am I Still Sick?


Some people have recovered from COVID-19, but months later they still have symptoms such as shortness of breath, weakness, a racing heart and trouble thinking.

If you are one of these unfortunate “long haulers,” you may continue to be sick even though you have recovered and tested negative for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Most people who get the disease make a full recovery, but it’s estimated that 10%-30% of patients continue to experience symptoms months after their initial diagnosis.

Anyone can be a long hauler

Even young people and those who had only mild cases are affected. About one in five young adults reports prolonged problems, and some people who were never hospitalized can’t climb stairs, get winded easily, and need oxygen for shortness of breath.

Doctors aren’t sure what causes these drawn-out symptoms, but an inflammatory response may be responsible. COVID-19 makes your body’s disease-fighting antibodies overreact, attacking healthy cells and damaging tissues and organs. If this inflammatory response continues, the outcome could be “long Covid” that lasts for weeks or months.

First steps toward treatment

It is not yet well understood how to treat long Covid, but anti-inflammatory drugs may be one answer. Also, doctors are finding that a program of rehabilitation can help. People with lingering fatigue can benefit from gradual exercise, including breathing exercises to increase lung capacity. And those with cognitive issues can recover with the help of a neuropsychologist. Ask your doctor about possible treatment plans.

Since COVID-19 is a relatively new disease, its long-term health effects aren’t fully understood. One thing is certain, however: the best way to avoid complications is to prevent COVID-19.

Common ‘long Covid’ symptoms

If you continue to suffer any of these symptoms after recovering from Covid-19, you may be a Covid long hauler:

  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Joint and chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Changes in smell: food may smell bad
  • Confusion, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating


Victor Plavner, M.D.Dr. Plavner is a Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC partner, is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, and practices at the MPCP Arnold office. He earned his medical degree at the University of Louvain, Brussels, Belgium; and at George Washington University Medical Center.

5 Tips to Stay Safe as Quarantine Ends

By: Victor M. Plavner, M.D.

With Maryland taking steps to reopen, you may be tempted to think the Covid-19 crisis is over. Not true ─ the coronavirus is still out there, with new cases being reported every day. To avoid a second wave of infections, you need to take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. Here are five tips for how to re-enter public life safely.

  1. Remember the basics

We all learned safe habits during the quarantine. You should keep doing them when in public:

  • Wear a mask
  • Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Practice social distancing: 6 feet apart
  • Disinfect surfaces and equipment
  • Limit contact with people who are at higher risk, such as the elderly and those with chronic illnesses. Remember, if you are infected, you can spread the virus before you show any symptoms.
  1. Avoid confined spaces

Try to stay out of places where air can be trapped or is unfiltered, such as elevators, break rooms and small shops. When possible, take advantage of any outdoor or open-air areas where people can meet while maintaining a healthy distance.

  1. Have a coming-home routine

Create a daily routine for arriving home to prevent bringing infectious germs into your home. Depending on your level of risk, this may include:

  • Using hand sanitizer before entering your house
  • Cleaning personal items with disinfectant before going in, such as keys, mobile phones, and things in your pockets
  • Taking a shower
  • Washing your work clothes
  1. Stay alert at gatherings

As we return to gathering socially, we should maintain a certain level of caution. This includes distancing or limiting interaction with people who don’t have the same level of concern about the virus. We have no way of knowing where someone has been, or their level of exposure to possible infection, so our best protection is to avoid getting close to people in restaurants, churches, stores, bars and other public places.

  1. Take care at work

If you work near others or have to attend meetings, try to keep some space between you and other people and wear a facemask. Try to keep surfaces in work and meeting areas sanitized.

The same applies to having lunch with a group of work friends. The wise thing is to skip this custom for a while. Eat lunch alone or carve out some personal space.

See this Wall Street Journal article for more tips to stay safe while you’re out and about.

Victor Plavner, M.D.Dr. Plavner is a Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC partner, is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, and practices at the MPCP Arnold office . He earned his medical degree at the University of Louvain, Brussels, Belgium; and at George Washington University Medical Center.

Cholesterol 101

By Victor M. Plavner, M.D.

Have you been told you need your cholesterol checked? Or do you know you already have high cholesterol? What does that really mean and what numbers are important to know when we’re talking about cholesterol?

It’s easy to get confused when you hear people talk about good cholesterol vs. bad cholesterol, and what effect diet vs. heredity plays ─ even what numbers you should be concerned with when you have your cholesterol checked. Each individual should talk with his or her primary care doctor about their blood cholesterol levels and risks, but here is some good general information:

  • Cholesterol is a naturally-occurring, waxy substance that’s made naturally in the liver and can be found throughout the body. Cholesterol is also found in some foods we eat. While we need cholesterol for the cells and organs of our body to work effectively, too much cholesterol in our system increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) is known as “good” cholesterol because it helps sweep the bad cholesterol out of your blood. LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) is considered “bad” because it causes the build-up of cholesterol on the walls of arteries, increasing the chances of cardiovascular disease.
  • Your cholesterol can be checked through a simple blood test. In general, the number you want is for your total (HDL & LDL) cholesterol to stay below is 200. Broken down further, your optimal LDL level should be below 130 for the average patient, below 100 for the diabetic patient and around 70 for the patient with coronary heart disease. HDL levels above 60 are considered helpful to reducing heart disease risk. So, a lower total and LDL cholesterol is good, and a higher HDL number is better.

High cholesterol is often hereditary and increases with age. However, there are several risk factors you can control: diet, excess weight, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and diabetes. Some researchers believe that dietary changes alone can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by as much as 20-30%.

So, don’t panic if you have high cholesterol. Work with your doctor to come up with a dietary and exercise plan and, if needed, there are several medications that can help. And start early to keep your children active and eating healthy so they’ll have to worry less about high cholesterol later.


Victor Plavner, M.D.

Dr. Plavner is an MPCP partner and is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. He received his medical degree from the University of Louvain in Brussels, Belgium, and the George Washington University Medical Center. He completed his residency program in Family Practice at Franklin Square Hospital Center.